Workers arrested in Turkey for protesting conditions at airport construction site must be released

Turkish authorities must immediately and unconditionally release 31 construction workers who have already spent two months in jail simply for protesting unsafe working conditions on the site of Istanbul’s third airport, said Amnesty International as a mass trial gets underway.

With the official statistics showing that at least 52 workers have died on the site, it is surely now time for the authorities to listen to the legitimate demands of these workers rather than trying to silence them.
Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International

Just days after the official figures revealed that there have been 52 fatal work accidents on the site between 2013 and 2018, 61 workers and trade unionists are in court today. They are facing numerous charges in the context of a protest on 14 September 2018. 31 of these workers have been remanded in prison pending trial.

“By detaining and prosecuting these workers who were simply calling for dignified and safe working conditions, the Turkish authorities are sending out a message that anyone who attempts to stand up for their rights will be punished,” said Amnesty International’s Turkey Strategy and Research Manager, Andrew Gardner.

All of the detained construction workers and trade unionists on trial today must be released immediately and unconditionally
Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International

“With the official statistics showing that at least 52 workers have died on the site, it is surely now time for the authorities to listen to the legitimate demands of these workers rather than trying to silence them. All of the detained construction workers and trade unionists on trial today must be released immediately and unconditionally.

Background

More than 400 workers were detained during a midnight raid, following a protest on 14 September 2018 against inhumane working and living conditions at the site of Istanbul’s third airport. Workers have also complained of the high numbers of accidents and deaths at the site.

61 workers are on trial and 31 of them have been in pretrial detention for around two months. Detainees, include Anıl Deniz Gider, Özkan Özkanlı, Uğur Karadaş, and Yunus Özgür, who are representatives from İnsaat-İş, a construction workers union, and the head of the Construction Workers Union (Dev Yapı-İş), Özgür Karabulut.

They are all accused of preventing police and gendarmerie from intervening in the protest, forcing or threatening others to stop or suspend work, damaging public and private property and participating in the protest with potentially harmful instruments proscribed by law, such as stones and sticks.  However, the indictment fails to describe or provide evidence of how each individual worker has committed each of the alleged crimes.

According to a written response from Istanbul Provincial Social Security Directorate to a Member of Parliament, Ali Şeker, the local social security centre recorded 52 fatal work-related accidents at the new airport construction site between 2013 and 2018.