Turkish police arrested seven members of famous folk band Grup Yorum on 23 November 2016 on charges of assault, resisting and insulting police, and being members of a terrorist group, reported Birgün on 24 November 2016.
Grup Yorum’s lawyer Aytaç Ünsal told the Turkish newspaper:
Even 3 days after they were initially taken into custody, there were no official records of their files at the prosecutor’s office and the counter terrorism unit. There was no file number and no prosecutor. So, this means: all proceedings are handled by the police. In other words, police can detain people without having to report on it. This should not be allowed!
The arrest comes after two separate raids on the İdil Culture Centre, which is run by a few of the group members and where the band often meets, within a month of each other where police confiscated evidence leading to the arrests.
Two raids in the span of one month
Special forces, anti-terrorism forces and police conducted night raids on a building in the Ortaköy neighbourhood of Istanbul on 21 October 2016 that houses the İdil Culture Centre and the Youth Associations Federation, reported Birgün.
Forces confiscated books, documents and electronic devices, including computers, flash drives and phones, and destroyed much of the musical equipment at the centre during the raid. Forces also detained two members of the group and four members of the youth association.
Just a few weeks later on 18 November, police conducted another raid on the centre, stemming from the initial raid, and detained all seven of the group members, along with three construction workers present at the time who were remodelling the centre.
Evidence from the raids is being used by police forces against the group members, including a journal, traditional dance costumes police defined as a “monotype costume of an organisation”, equipment defined as “belonging of a terrorist organisation”, and 2,030 Turkish Lira (approx. $575 USD) police consider to be “money belonging to the terrorist organisation”, among other pieces of evidence.
In addition to the seven group members, one of the construction workers at the centre was also arrested.
A history of being targeted
The group has often been targeted by authorities with concerts cancelled or banned and members of the group arrested and detained.
Most recently in June 2015 the group was able to hold its 30th anniversary concert in Istanbul after a court reversed the decision by Governor’s Office authorities who allegedly banned the concert because it “was not found appropriate since it might gain reactions from some parts of the society”.
Grup Yorum, over the course of its over 30-year history and more than 20 albums, write, sing and perform political songs, and take part in political activism that is often at odds with the government.
At the anniversary concert several guest appearances were made on stage, most notably by American folk singer Joan Baez who expressed her solidarity with the band and spoke out against censorship. Baez has also sent out a message of solidarity to the band following this recent arrest.
In the past, group members have been imprisoned, allegedly tortured in custody, put under house arrest and banned from traveling outside of Turkey, for their songs and their activism, with authorities linking them to terrorist organisations linked to Kurish groups. Supporters of the group have also been targeted and imprisoned over the years.
In response to the October raid where many of their instruments were destroyed, Grup Yorum released a video on YouTube for a song played on their broken instruments:
Photo: Grup Yorum/Facebook
» Hurriyet Daily News – 25 November 2016
Folk singer Joan Baez supports arrested members of Turkey’s Grup Yorum
» Birgün – 24 November 2016
Joan Baez sends Turkish music band solidarity message following the group’s arrest
» Bianet – 24 November 2016
Grup Yorum band members arrested over ‘Green Shirt’
» BBC Turkey – 24 November 2016
Grup Yorum members arrested
» Birgün – 23 October 2016
Even if the instruments are shattered
» Oda TV – 21 October 2016
Police turned Idil Cultural Centre into this
» Birgün – 21 October 2016
Night raids on associations and cultural centres in Okmeyadani
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