|Amnesty Turkey Director Idil Eser is among those on trial|
The activists, who include the local head of Amnesty International and a German and a Swede, face up to 15 years in prison on charges that include membership in and aid to an “armed terrorist organisation”.
They were detained in July after they participated in a workshop on digital security held on an island near Istanbul. The case has deepened concerns that Turkey is sliding faster towards authoritarianism under President Tayyip Erdogan.
The court started the trial by checking the identities of the accused.
“This is ostensibly a trial of human rights defenders attending a workshop on an island in Istanbul, but in fact it is the Turkish justice system and Turkish authorities that are on trial,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty’s director for Europe and Central Asia, outside the courthouse.
Police blocked off the square outside the court, Istanbul’s Palace of Justice in the central Caglayan district, although the area was thronged with journalists.
Since a failed coup last year, authorities have jailed pending trial more than 50,000 and sacked or suspended some 150,000. Western allies fear Erdogan is using the coup as a pretext to root out opponents and quash dissent.
Among those arrested were Amnesty International’s Turkey director, Idil Eser, German citizen Peter Frank Steudtner and Swedish citizen Ali Gharavi.