As has appeared on numerous occasions during the years under the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), anyone involved in opposition to the authorities risks facing harsh repression. Very often, accusations of terrorism are used to fight trade unions and other activists. So far, however, the first link between Turkey’s trade unions and any real or perceived terrorist organisation has yet to be found. In 2011, the ITUC already protested against the misuse of Turkey’s anti-terrorism laws, when 25 members of teachers’ union Egitim Sen were sentenced to six years’ and five months’ imprisonment by the Izmir Criminal Court.
KESK is not the only trade union centre facing anti-union policy in Turkey. TURK-Is affiliates have been harassed with financial audits, and members of DISK have been arrested and remain in prison to date. Other opposition groups also face persection: at least 80 journalists are currently in jail, many of them accused of membership in terrorist organisations.
Unfortunately, the list of similar cases is infinitely longer. In any case, of all the 69 trade union leaders who will stand trial next week, none has ever been involved in any action related to or resulting in any violence whatsoever.
“The strategy of the Turkish government has become very clear,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary. “Their main objective is to weaken the trade union movement. Abusing the legal system to attempt to destroy the unions is of course unacceptable. Trade unionists should have the right to play their legitimate role without fear of being sent to prison.”