Seher Tumer: in jail in Turkey for speaking up for workers and women

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber has written to the Turkish Ambassador calling for an urgent appeal hearing for Seher Tümer, a member of the executive board of KESK's Health and Social Service Workers Union (SES) in Ankara.

Seher was detained in her workplace, Ankara Zekai Tahir Burak Women's Health Training and Research Hospital, on 17 April 2009, and was arrested by the 11th Heavy Penalty Court in Ankara on 20 April 2009.

She was charged and eventually jailed for alleged membership of an illegal organisation, and for 'making propaganda'. But in reality, the charges against her relate to her trade unionism, her Kurdish activism, and her defence of women's rights – such as participation in the traditional Kurdish Newroz festival in Ankara on 22 March 2009 and the 2009 International Women's Day, as well as publicising the deaths of babies in the hospital where she works.

She was detained during her trial from 28 July 2009 to 28 March 2010. She was convicted and sentenced to 6.5 years in prison for membership of an illegal armed organization, and for 10 months for 'making propaganda'. Seher Tümer has already spent close to one year in prison.

However, we have been informed by KESK that there was no act of violence in the Newroz celebrations or on International Women's Day; Seher Tümer did not chant any slogan accepted as illegal, nor carry a banner; her home was searched by police when she was not at home, which is against the Code of Criminal Procedure, and in the search, the rules of procedure were not observed.

We believe that Seher Tümer has no connection with any illegal armed or unarmed organization, but has been punished for her trade union and other legitimate activities. We are calling on the Turkish authorities to expedite the appeal lodged on her behlaf with the Supreme Court.

 Owen Tudor

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