Turkey has seen far-reaching purges in its judiciary, security services, and civil servants since the failed coup last year. Over 50,000 people have been arrested over that span, and the country’s judicial system has been churning through thousands of trials against individuals accused of sympathizing with the Gülen movement. Recently the media spotlight has fallen on 11 human rights activists who are facing trial for terrorism charges.
The activists, who include senior members of Turkey’s Amnesty International chapter, have been in prison since July, when they were arrested at a human rights workshop and held on terrorism charges. Taner Kilic, Amnesty Turkey’s chairman, was arrested in a previous raid and is facing charges in the same case. The outcome of the case is being seen as a test of President Erdoğan’s authority under the new political system, a system created after his reform package was narrowly approved in April’s referendum.
One of the activists arrested in July is German citizen Peter Steudtner, and his arrest led to German politicians warning their citizens against travel to Turkey. Relations between Turkey and the European Union’s biggest member state have deteriorated sharply over the course of 2017, when Germany banned Turkish ministers from campaigning in favor of President Erdoğan’s constitutional amendments on German soil. The Turkish president responded by accusing the German government of racism and fascism, comparing them to the Nazi regime.