Lawyer Taner Kılıç, Amnesty International’s Turkey chair, arrested

Lawyer Taner Kılıç, the Chair of Amnesty International Turkey.
Turkish lawyer Taner Kılıç, a human rights defender and Amnesty International’s Turkey chair, was arrested by an İzmir court over alleged links to the Gülen movement on Friday basing on no credible evidence.

The same court has also arrested eight lawyers earlier on Friday over their alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement on the grounds that they have been allegedly using a smart phone application known as ByLock. One lawyer was released by the court with condition of judicial probe.

The arrest of Taner Kılıç was announce by Andrew Gardner, Turkey researcher of Amnesty International on his personnal twitter account on Friday. Gardner stated that “Human rights defender, Annesty Turkey chair Taner Kılıç remanded in pre-trial detention. No credible evidence presented at hearing. Shame!”

The Turkish prosecution’s decision to charge Taner Kılıç has drawns ire from the Amnesty International. The Amnesty stated that the decision to crharge with “membership of a terrorist organisation” is a mockery of justice, and highlights the devastating impact of the Turkish authorities’ crackdown following the failed coup attempt in July last year.

“Taner Kılıç became the latest victim of the government’s sweeping purge after he was detained in the early hours of Tuesday on suspicion of involvement with the Fethullah Gülen movement, together with 22 other lawyers based in İzmir,” said the Amnesty.

The statement has continued to say that “At his court hearing in the western Turkish city today, he was charged with membership of the “Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation” and remanded in pre-trial detention. Amnesty International is demanding his immediate and unconditional release. ”

“Taner Kılıç  is a principled and passionate human rights defender. The charges brought against him today are completely without merit. They show just how arbitrary, just how sweeping, the Turkish government’s frenzied pursuit of its perceived enemies and critics has become. He must be released immediately and the charges against him dropped,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

“Taner’s arrest highlights not just a disregard for human rights, but a desire to target those who defend them. We are calling on all those in Turkey and around the world who care about human rights to speak up for a courageous campaigner who has dedicated his life and now sacrificed his liberty in their cause.”

On Friday, eight lawyers in the case were also remanded in pre-trial detention. One was released on bail. Seven other lawyers were taken to the courthouse at the same time as Taner Kılıç. A further six remain in police custody.

The only claim presented by the authorities purportedly linking Taner Kılıç to the Gülen movement is that Bylock, a secure mobile messaging application that the authorities say was used by members of the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization” was discovered to have been on his phone in August 2014.

No evidence has been presented to substantiate this claim, and Taner Kılıç denies ever having downloaded or used Bylock, or even having heard of it, until its alleged use was widely publicized in connection with recent detentions and prosecutions.

“Taner Kılıç is neither a supporter nor a follower of the Fethullah Gülen movement and has in fact been critical of its role in Turkey. The only evidence brought against him is the alleged presence on his phone of a secure communications platform that would not, even it were true, be evidence of a criminal act. He must not face trial on the basis of such flimsy and inadequate accusations,” said Salil Shetty.

“Amnesty International will campaign tirelessly for Taner’s release, and continue its work in and on Turkey undeterred,” she added.

Police arrived at the İzmir home of Taner Kılıç, who has served on the board of Amnesty International Turkey for various periods since 2002, on Tuesday morning, searching his home and later his office. A detention order was issued against him along with 22 other lawyers, referring to an investigation into suspected members of the “Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization”.

Taner Kılıç’s arrest has drawn widespread international condemnation, including from the US State Department, the EU, Germany’s Human Rights Commissioner and Denmark’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, and international and domestic human rights organisations.

Amnesty stated that “Taner Kılıç’s detention takes place in the context of an escalating crackdown on human rights by the Turkish authorities, following a failed coup attempt on 15 July 2016. Tens of thousands of public sector employees have been dismissed and hundreds of journalists and media workers detained. Hundreds of media outlets and NGOs have been shut down.”

A military coup attempt on July 15 killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

According to a report by the state-run Anadolu news agency on May 28, 154,694 individuals have been detained and 50,136 have been jailed due to alleged Gülen links since the failed coup.

June 10, 2017

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