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Turkey’s New Low on Human Rights

Condemning other governments' human-rights violations does not absolve Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of the gross abuses his own government continues to commit. On the contrary, the current effort to put 16 civil society activists in prison for life places Erdoğan firmly within the ranks of the leaders he decries.

NEW YORK – On March 4, a Turkish court accepted indictments against 16 leading civil-society figures for their alleged role in the Gezi Park protests in 2013. In pursuing these charges, the Turkish government is taking its already abysmal human-rights record to a new low.

The 2013 protests began as an environmentalist-led effort to prevent the government’s demolition of a small park in the center of Istanbul. While they did end up triggering broader protests against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s increasingly authoritarian governance, the demonstrations were overwhelmingly peaceful, and Turkey’s constitutional court has issued several rulings affirming their legality.

Yet Erdoğan’s government falsely insists that the protests constituted a coup attempt. Most of the alleged protest leaders were taken into custody a few weeks ago, interrogated, and then released without charges, though under judicial control. But prosecutors are seeking life sentences against all 16 who were indicted.

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