ECtHR condemns Turkey over Amnesty activist’s ‘unlawful’ detention

File photo: Ozan Kose/AFP

The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday condemned Turkey over the arrest in 2017 of the head of the Turkish branch of rights group Amnesty International, ruling his detention was unlawful, Agence France-Presse reported.

The court said there was no indication an offence had been committed.

Taner Kılıç was detained in June 2017 on charges of links to  US-based preacher Fethullah Gülen, who Turkey accuses of staging a failed coup in 2016 against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Gülen and his movement strongly deny any involvement in the failed putsch.

Kılıç was released in August 2018. But in July 2020, he was convicted of belonging to a terror group and sentenced to six years and three months in prison. Kılıç, who is currently not in detention, has appealed against the verdict.

In its latest damning ruling against Turkey, the ECtHR said his pre-trial detention had been “unlawful and arbitrary” and there had been “no reasonable suspicion that Mr Kılıç had committed an offence.”

The chamber’s verdict was agreed unanimously by seven judges, including Saadet Yüksel of Turkey.

The court said Kılıç’s detention violated the European Convention on Human Rights on four counts. The ECtHR enforces the convention and all 46 member nations of the Council of Europe must adhere to it.

“This long-awaited European Court ruling confirms what we have known from the start — that Taner Kılıç was arbitrarily deprived of his liberty when jailed in a high security prison on trumped-up charges,” said Amnesty International’s Europe director, Nils Muiznieks.

He said the conviction must be “quashed”, warning that Kılıç risks another two-and-a-half years in prison if it is upheld by the Turkish Court of Cassation.

The verdict was the latest ECtHR ruling against Turkey. Concerns remain over freedom of expression in the country in the wake of the 2016 coup bid, which saw an unprecedented crackdown against opponents of Erdoğan.

The Council of Europe has begun disciplinary proceedings against Turkey — only the second time such a process has been launched in its history — over its refusal to release philanthropist Osman Kavala in defiance of an ECtHR ruling.

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