Updated: 12/03/2019 - 03:00

The inauguration of the airport took place on the planned date of October 29, 2018, on the 96th anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey. 61 workers and unionists protesting against the unacceptable working conditions at the construction site of the airport have been on trial since September 2018. In the indictment filed and admitted by Gaziosmanpaşa 14th Criminal Court of First Instance, the workers and unionists are accused of “prevention of performance”, “violation of the freedom to work and labour”, “destruction of government property”, “participant[ing] to assemblies or demonstrations carry[ing] arms, tools, instruments or substances specified in Article 23” and “damage to property”. Security camera and video footage, along with WhatsApp messages, are used as evidence to these allegations. With a capital cost of 10,2 billion Euros, the Third Airport of Istanbul (Istanbul Airport) is the largest infrastructural project in the history of the republic and the most expensive in the world. According to Cumhurbaşkanlığı İletişim Merkezi (Presidential Communication Center), at least 52 workers lost their lives during the construction phase. The trial against the workers is about the protests that are sparked by the unacceptable working conditions that caused the deaths of 52 workers. First mass protest at the construction site of the Third Airport took place on September 12, 2018 following a traffic accident that injured 17 workers. Workers blocked the road and did not let service vehicles pass on September 14, 2018, protesting against occupational murder, difficult working conditions, nonpayment of salaries, lack of hygiene in the dormitories and the preparation of the food. The protesters were met by teargas. Afterwards, representatives of the workers came together with company executives. During this meeting, their 15-point demands were blatantly refused. Workers saw this as “stalling” the protests. The very night, the rooms of workers were raided. According to İnşaat-İş Sendikası (Construction Workers Union), 543 workers were detained, only 401 of which were registered. The detained workers could only speak to their lawyers on the third day. 43 of them were sent to the Prosecutor’s Office, while others were released. 15 were released under judicial control. 28 were sent to court for arrest, upon which 24 were arrested. Among those arrested were İnşaat İşçileri Sendikası (Construction Workers Union) Press Officer Uğur Karadaş, Mobilizing Agent Yunus Özgür and Executive Board Members Anıl Deniz Gider and Özkan Özkanlı. The number of arrested workers increased to 31 in the following days as the protests against the working conditions continued and interventions intensified. Yapı İşçileri Sendikası (Revolutionary Builder Laborers Union) Chair Özgür Karabulut, a constituent of Devrimci İşçi Sendikaları Konfederasyonu (DİSK - Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions), was also arrested. Karabulut was detained October 4 at DİSK headquarters at the same time as arrests were taking place at the airport construction site. 31 workers and unionists, after 3 months of imprisonment, had their first hearing before a judge on December 5, 2018 at Gaziosmanpaşa 14th Criminal Court of First Instance. Except for one worker, who could not be interrogated, 30 arrested workers were released under judicial control and banned from leaving the country. During the second hearing on March 20, 2019, the judicial control and the ban on leaving the country for all workers, except for 3 who could not be interrogated, were lifted. The third hearing was held on June 26. 61 workers and unionists' * latest trial was on November 27, 2019. The next hearing will be on March 25, 2020. Düşünce Suçu’na Karşı Girişim (Initiative Against Thought Crime) has prepared an extensive report on the unlawful processes the workers have faced during this period. Click on the link to have more information in Turkish language on the violations of rights of workers and unionists protected by the constitution and laws.

* Abdurrahman Denli, Adem Mukyen, Ahmet Aras, Ahmet Faruk Şengül, Akif Altınışık, Anıl Deniz Gider, Bahtiyar Takan, Berhem Örnek, Bilal Özmen, Bilal Topcu, Birkan Topcu, Cihan Sarıbulak, Deniz Aslan, Diyar Bozkurt, Emin Irmak, Enver Asan, Esat Fırat, Fatih Mukan, Ferhat Çelik, Ferhat Uyar, Fuat Ögel, Gökhan Takan, Gürgün Işık, Hacı Volkan Oflaz, Hasan Çetin, Hüseyin Çetin, İbrahim Kençü, İlker Kurt, İsmail Faydalgel, Mazlum Kaya, Mehmet Keleş, Mehmet Ali İnan, Mehmet Celal Demir, Mehmet Nuri Soyalp, Mehmet Refik Şimşek, Muhammet Yiğen, Murat Altuntaş, Murat Nozoğlu, Musa Başkan, Musa Karakuş, Mustafa Atay, Mustafa Öktem, Mustafa Soyalp, Nedim Erdem, Osman Atku, Osman Üney, Ömer Eren, Özgür Karabulut, Özkan Özkanlı, Ramazan Gözel, Reşit Çelik, Rıdvan Günül, Sedat Elmas, Selami Saribuğa, Serhat Bilici, Servet Gözel, Teyip Kırğın, Uğur Karadaş, Yunus Özgür, Yusuf Asan, Yusuf Yılmaz.