Turkey: Year in detention for Amnesty Chair a 'gross injustice'

Taner Kiliç, Chair of Amnesty International Turkey who was detained and charged in Turkey in June 2017
Taner Kiliç, Chair of Amnesty International Turkey who was detained and charged in Turkey in June 2017 © Amnesty International

Taner Kılıç was arrested on 6 June 2017 on a charge of ‘belonging to a terrorist organisation’

Detention demonstrates the Turkish authorities ‘cold-blooded pursuit of anyone deemed to oppose them’ – Salil Shetty

Under crackdown more than 100,000 people have faced criminal investigations and at least 50,000 have been imprisoned

On the year anniversary of his arrest, Amnesty International is again calling for the immediate release of Taner Kılıç, Chair of Amnesty International Turkey.

Taner Kılıç was arrested on 6 June 2017 on a baseless charge of belonging to a terrorist organisation.

Mr Kılıç has been charged with “membership of the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation” based on the false allegation that he downloaded ByLock, a messaging app the authorities say was used by followers of Fethullah Gülen. The government holds the group responsible for the July 2016 coup attempt.

However, no credible evidence has been presented to substantiate the claim and two independent forensic experts have confirmed there is no trace of ByLock ever having been on Kılıç’s phone.

Kılıç’s next hearing is set for 21 June. If found guilty of the charges against him, he could face up to 15 years in jail.

Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said:

“Today we mourn the year of Taner Kılıç’s life that Turkey’s government has unjustly taken from him, but this is also a moment to redouble our efforts to secure his release and that of many other civil society activists whose work has cost them their freedom.

“Turkish authorities have fostered a climate of fear by mercilessly persecuting those who dare to speak out.

“The evidence of Taner’s innocence is emphatic. His detention is a gross injustice that exposes Turkey’s flawed justice system and the government’s cold-blooded pursuit of anyone deemed to oppose them.

“Taner has been imprisoned solely because he is a passionate defender of human rights. With his next trial hearing coming up this month, he must be released, cleared of the baseless charges against him and allowed to resume his crucial work.”

Taner Kılıç and the Istanbul 10

Following Taner Kılıç’s arrest, ten other activists “the Istanbul 10”, including İdil Eser, the Director of Amnesty Turkey, were detained a month later. Eight of them were held for almost four months before being released on bail at their first hearing in October.

The Istanbul 10 were accused of “membership of a terrorist organisation”, another baseless allegation for which the prosecution has yet to provide any concrete evidence. More than a million people from scores of countries have signed Amnesty appeals demanding the release of all 11 human rights activists since their arrest.

Last December, the Turkish authorities admitted that thousands of people had been wrongly accused of downloading ByLock. Lists containing the numbers of 11,480 mobile phone users were published by the authorities, leading to mass releases, but Taner was not among them.

Turkey’s climate of fear

Earlier this year, an Amnesty report, Weathering the storm: Defending human rights in Turkey’s climate of fear, revealed how few areas of Turkey’s once vibrant independent civil society have been left untouched by the ongoing crackdown, with mass arrests, a silencing of activists in the country and the near-destruction of Turkey’s entire legal system.

Amnesty’s report shows how anti-terrorism laws and trumped-up coup-related charges have been used to target and silence peaceful, legitimate dissent in Turkey. Since the state of emergency was declared, journalists, academics, human rights activists and many others have been subject to arbitrary detention, prosecutions and long prison sentences.

Under the clampdown more than 100,000 people have faced criminal investigations and 50,000 remain in prison pending trial. Meanwhile, more than 107,000 public sector employees have been arbitrarily dismissed.

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