Amnesty International’s Turkey Chair Kılıç re-detained by Turkish government

Taner Kılıç, the president of Turkey’s branch of international human rights group Amnesty International, was redetained shortly after a court ordered his release pending trial, reported by pro-government Hürriyet daily on Thursday. Re-detention of Kılıç was also confirmed by Amnesty International’s Director for Europe Gauri van Gulik.

An İstanbul criminal court decided to release Taner Kılıç subject to judicial controls pending trial after almost eight months in jail. But before he could be released, the İstanbul prosecutors’ office filed an appeal and Kılıç was redetained on Wednesday until the objection could be adjudicated by another criminal court, the newspaper said.

“Confirmed, tragically: Court in İstanbul ruled late last night in favor of the prosecutor and to keep Turkey chair in detention. Taner is still in a gendarmerie station where he was brought late last night, will be brought before court in İzmir any moment,” wrote van Gulik on her Twitter account on Thursday.

Van Gulik has added that “Our jubilation turns into despair: Taner kept in detention, court order reversed release decision late last night. His family waited outside prison all day, to no avail. Devastated for them and for what this means for Turkey’s rule of law. We won’t stop until he’s out.

Van Gulik wrote developments on Kılıç in her Twitter account as follows:

“At around 3pm, the İstanbul court issued a decision to release Taner from pre-trial detention (with travel ban). Around 9.30pm however, with his family waiting outside the prison for his release, the lawyers discovered that the Prosecutor had appealed the court’s decision.

“We flew to İzmir and drove to the prison, hoping to witness Taner’s release with his family. Instead, around midnight, Amnesty International witnessed Taner being taken from the Izmir prison into Gendarmerie custody to a station nearby.

“Meanwhile we found out that the court in İstanbul initially rejected the prosecutor’s appeal, but sent it to a different court for a decision on Taner’s detention. While no formal decision was communicated to lawyers, gendarmerie said there is an arrest warrant out for him.

“We spoke to the gendarmerie at the station where Taner is right now and they confirmed that he will be taken to Aliağa courthouse in İzmir (a local court) in the morning to decide on his detention.

“This is legally unprecedented- he was formally released so he should be out, no other formal decision was communicated. Instead, odd legal maneuvers are being used to keep him behind bars. Why?

“Tomorrow, Amnesty will be at the local court in İzmir where we may get a formal decision on Taner’s detention. In the meantime, spare a thought for Taner’s family who were outside the courthouse all day long waiting for their husband and father to finally walk free until this.”

Kılıç and 10 other human rights activists face charges of being members of a terrorist organisation following a two-day rights workshop they held on the island of Büyükada, off İstanbul, in 2017.

“It is an enormous relief that Taner will soon return to his wife and daughters and sleep in his own bed for the first time in almost eight months,” van Gulik had said in a statement following the court’s decision. “But we cannot forget that many other innocent people remain behind bars in Turkey without a shred of evidence,” she added.

“These unfounded prosecutions are an attempt to silence critical voices within Turkey but have only served to highlight the importance of human rights and those who dedicate their lives to defending them,” said van Gulik.

“Today we take a brief moment to celebrate, but tomorrow we will continue our struggle to have all charges dropped against Taner, the İstanbul 10, and all the other innocent victims wrongfully caught up in this vicious crackdown,” van Gulik said.

The “İstanbul 10” refers to 10 human rights activists detained by Turkish authorities in July, 2017 while they were attending a human rights workshop on Büyükada, an island in Marmara Sea near İstanbul. These activists include Amnesty International Turkey Director İdil Eser and two German citizens.

Following the court’s order on Wednesday, the rights group thanked their followers on the organization’s Twitter page, saying a million people have called for Kılıç’s release prior to the conditional release decision on Wednesday. Van Gulik said that “We thank the more than a million people who called for Taner’s release. They have shown that when we take injustice personally, and we act and speak with one voice, we will be heard.”

A court in İstanbul on Oct. 25, 2017 ordered the release of eight human rights activists from prison pending the outcome of their trial on “terror” charges, but ruled to keep Kılıç’s imprisoned, drawing criticism from human rights supporters around the world.

While Taner has now been released, the trial against him, İdil Eser and the other nine human rights defenders on trumped-up terrorism related charges continues. It is one of many baseless prosecutions against members of civil society under the crackdown in Turkey.

A delegation of Amnesty International directors from around the world attended the trial. Follow Kate Allen (UK – @KateAllenAI), Sylvie Brigot-Vilain (France – @sylviebrigot ), Jon Peder Egernaes (Norway – @johnpeder) and Europe Director Gauri van Gulik (@GaurivanGulik). Also follow Amnesty’s Senior Advisor and Researcher on Turkey Andrew Gardner @andrewegardner.

Amnesty International’s Turkey Chair, Taner Kılıç, was detained on June 6, 2017 and sent to jail three days later, where he has been ever since. Ten other activists “the İstanbul 10”, including İdil Eser, the Director of Amnesty International 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 İstanbul 10 were accused of “membership of a terrorist organization,” a baseless allegation for which the prosecution has yet to provide any concrete evidence that would stand up to scrutiny.

Taner Kılıç is alleged to have downloaded and used the ByLock messaging application, which the prosecution has claimed was used by the Gülen movement to communicate with each other. However, two independent forensic analyses of Taner’s phone commissioned by Amnesty International found that there is no trace of ByLock ever having been on it. So far, the prosecution have not provided any evidence to prove their claim and demonstrate any criminal wrongdoing.

Last month, Turkish authorities admitted that thousands of people have been wrongly accused of downloading ByLock. They published lists containing the numbers of 11,480 mobile phone users, leading to mass releases. Taner Kılıç is not yet among those listed for release.

More than a million people from 194 countries and territories have signed Amnesty International appeals demanding the release of Taner Kılıç and the other human rights defenders in Turkey since their arrest last summer. Scores of well-known figures have called for the release of Taner and the dropping of charges against him and the İstanbul 10.

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