On 19 February Turkish police arrested 167 people in relation with the 1 February suicide bomb detonation outside the US embassy in Ankara. All across Turkey, members of DHKP/C, the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front, a militant leftist group which is listed as terrorist organisation by both Turkey and the United States and had claimed responsibility for the attack, were targeted. As part of these raids, the Confederation of Public Workers’ Unions (KESK), affiliate of the International as well as the European Trade Union Confederation, was searched under the justification of being a DHKP/C member. Several union officials were arrested, among them senior leader and ITUC Steering Committee member Akman Simsek, as well as doctors and nurses.
Anglophone news site Bianet also reports that Engin Göko?lu, a human rights lawyer, said detainees visiting rights were restricted in the first 24 hours of their detention.
In reaction to the events, the website Today’s Zaman reports that the Deputy Chairman of the Republican People's Party (CHP), Sezgin Tanr?kulu, complained that the involvement of KESK in these raids “is a part of a systematic plan to ruin the reputation of KESK in the eyes of the public”. KESK chairperson Lami Özgen said in a statement that over the past year already 59 of its leaders have been detained for their union activities. The European Federation of Public Service Unions rejects the violence of the suicide bombing but condemned “the massive attack by the Turkish state ruled by the AKP on trade unionists of the public service confederation of KESK and its affiliates”. ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow adds that “Turkish authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all arrested trade union members and stop labeling them as terrorists. In a true democracy, trade unionists have the right to play their legitimate role without having to fear being arrested”. Upon hearing the news, EFJ President Arne König expressed his fears that “the fight against the free unions is a growing issue”.
EPSU and ITUC and others have set up an online campaign calling on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stop harassing trade unionists and labelling them as terrorists. You can sign their call here.