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Judicial harassment of Özgür Karabulut

Status: 
Released
About the situation

The first hearing of 31 detained construction workers and trade unionists, including Özgür Karabulut, was held on 5 December 2018 before Gaziosmanpaşa’s Criminal Court of First Instance. The Court ordered the release of 30 detained construction workers and trade unionists, including Özgür Karabulut. The criminal proceedings remain ongoing. A total number of 61 workers and trade unionists, 31 of whom were in detention, are charged with “disrupting the freedom to work”, “damaging public property”, “resisting police” and “possessing weapons during public assemblies and demonstrations”.

About Özgür Karabulut

Özgür KarabulutÖzgür Karabulut is a trade unionist and human rights defenders focusing on labour rights. He is the head of Dev Yapı-İş (the Progressive Construction Workers Union), representing a group of workers in the construction site of Istanbul’s third airport, and also a board member of Devrimci İşçi Sendikaları Konfederasyonu (Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey).

7 December 2018
Thirty detained construction workers and trade unionists, including Özgür Karabulut, released

The first hearing of 31 detained construction workers and trade unionists, including Özgür Karabulut, was held on 5 December 2018 before Gaziosmanpaşa’s Criminal Court of First Instance. The Court ordered the release of 30 detained construction workers and trade unionists, including Özgür Karabulut. The criminal proceedings remain ongoing. A total number of 61 workers and trade unionists, 31 of whom were in detention, are charged with “disrupting the freedom to work”, “damaging public property”, “resisting police” and “possessing weapons during public assemblies and demonstrations”.

Özgür Karabulut is a trade unionist and human rights defender focusing on labour rights. He is the head of Dev Yapı-İş (the Revolutionist Construction Workers Union), representing a group of workers on the construction site of Istanbul’s third airport. He is also a board member of Devrimci İşçi Sendikaları Konfederasyonu (Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey).

The 31 were arrested following a peaceful protest on 14 September 2018 organised by thousands of construction workers to demand improvement of poor working and living conditions on the construction site of Istanbul’s third airport. Their demands included improvement of shuttle services, payment of overdue wages, improved workplace safety to prevent fatal accidents and a solution to a bed bug problem in the dormitories.

On 5 December 2018, the first hearing in the criminal proceedings was held in Gaziosmanpaşa Court House’s cafeteria because no court room in the Court House could accommodate all 61 suspects, their lawyers and families. A worker and a guard fainted during the hearing because of the unsuitable conditions in the cafeteria. The construction workers and trade unionists were heard by the Court about their working conditions and their involvement in the protest on 14 September 2018. Workers rejected the charges against them and also stated that they were ill-treated in detention by the police. One worker stated that he was beaten by the guards because he was unable to recognize people in pictures shown to him during his interrogation. Another worker said that doctors neglected to document evidence of ill-treatment during their detention and that his statement was produced under threat. Armed police officers were initially present in the cafeteria although they were dismissed from the room upon the objection of the lawyers and families of the defendants.

The hearing continued until late into the evening when the Court ordered the release of 30 detainees under judicial control. They are required to present themselves to the police station once a week and are banned from travelling abroad. One worker, who is in a prison located in another city, remains in detention as he could not be heard via video call due to lack of technical equipment in the cafeteria. His case will be heard by an appointed court located in the city where he is being held. The criminal proceedings remain ongoing and 61 workers and trade unionists are still facing charges of “disrupting the freedom to work”, “damaging public property”, “resisting police” and “possessing weapons during public assemblies and demonstrations”.

Front Line Defenders welcomes the release of 30 detained construction workers and trade unionists, including Özgür Karabulut. We urge the authorities in Turkey to drop all the charges against the 61 construction workers and trade unionists as it is believed that they are solely linked to their legitimate and peaceful activities in defence of labour rights as well as human rights.

30 November 2018
Judicial harassment of trade unionists and construction workers

The first hearing of 31 detained construction workers and trade unionists, including Özgür Karabulut, will be held on 5 December 2018 before Gaziosmanpaşa’s Criminal Court of First Instance. They were arrested following a peaceful protest organised by thousands of construction workers to demand improvement of the poor working and living conditions on the construction site of Istanbul’s third airport. They are facing charges of “disrupting the freedom to work”, “damaging public property”, “resisting police” and “possessing weapons during public assemblies and demonstrations”.

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On 14 September 2018, approximately 10 000 construction workers ceased operations and gathered to protest the precarious working and living conditions on the construction site of Istanbul’s third airport. Their demands included the improvement of shuttle services, payment of overdue wages, improved workplace safety to prevent fatal accidents and a solution to the bed bug problem in dormitories. On the night of the protest, the gendarmerie raided the dormitories of the workers and detained 401 workers. While the majority of the detained workers were released in the following days, 28 workers and trade unionists were arrested.

Over the next days, six more workers/trade unionist were detained, including Özgür Karabulut. He was arrested on 5 October 2018 because of a speech he delivered during the protests allegedly encouraging the workers to continue demonstrating and slow down the work. A criminal investigation was opened against 61 workers and trade unionists, 31 of which are in detention. All of them are charged with “disrupting the freedom to work”, “damaging public property”, “resisting police” and “possessing weapons during public assemblies and demonstrations”. Özgür Karabulut is being held in Silivri Prison, alongside many other high profile human rights defenders such as Selçuk Kozağaçlı. The first hearing will be held on 5 December 2018 before Gaziosmanpaşa’s Criminal Court of First Instance.

Front Line Defenders expresses its concern at the judicial harassment of workers and trade unionists, including Özgür Karabulut, as it believes it is solely linked to the legitimate and peaceful activities in defence of labour rights as well as human rights.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Turkey to:

1. Immediately release the detained workers and trade unionists, including Özgür Karabulut, and drop the charges against them,

2. Ensure that the rights to freedom of assembly and association of workers and trade unionists are respected,

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Turkey, including labour rights defenders, are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.