Over 1 million people demand freedom for Turkey’s Amnesty chair as trial resumes

More than one million people from 194 countries have demanded the release of Taner Kılıç, Amnesty International’s Turkey Chair and the dropping of charges against him and 10 other human rights defenders as their trial resumes in İstanbul on Wednesday. Scores of well-known figures have also called for the release of Kılıç and the İstanbul 10.

“Tomorrow’s hearing offers yet another opportunity to end this glaring miscarriage of justice allowing this principled and passionate human rights defender to return to his family and resume his vital work,” said Gauri van Gulik, Deputy Europe Director at Amnesty International.

The 11 face trumped up “terrorism” charges in what can only be described as a politically motivated prosecution aimed at silencing critical voices within Turkey. If convicted they could face jail terms of up to 15 years.

“With overwhelming evidence of his innocence and none of any wrongdoing Taner’s release is long overdue. The fact that he has spent almost eight months behind bars speaks volumes about Turkey’s flawed justice system and the government’s ruthless pursuit of those who stand up for human rights,” said van Gulik and added that “The court must acquit Taner and the other 10 human rights defenders and end this farce once and for all.”

Kılıç was detained on June 6, 2017 and sent to jail three days later, where he has been ever since. Ten other activists, 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.

They are all 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.

Meanwhile, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) has also called for the release of AI’s Turkey chair Kılıc. In a written statement issued a day before Kılıç’s court appearance on Wednesday, PACE’s co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Turkey, Marianne Mikko (Estonia, SOC) and Nigel Evans (United Kingdom, EC) reiterated their call for the right defender’s release.

“Taner Kılıç, like any other individual, should feel safe and secure to express himself and assemble in Turkey. We urge once again the Turkish authorities to ensure that these fundamental freedoms are duly and effectively secured, and put an end to the continuous arrests and detentions of those expressing dissenting and critical opinions, which cannot be a crime in itself,” they said.

“In this context, we are deeply concerned about today’s arrest of Turkish Medical Association board members, including its chair, as well as hundreds others for criticizing Turkish military intervention in Afrin. We call on the Turkish authorities to act and react in full respect of Council of Europe standards,” the co-rapporteurs also added.

Kılıç, a lawyer, a founding member of AI Turkey and chairman of its board of directors since 2014, was arrested by an İzmir court on June 9, 2017 as part of an investigation into the Gülen movement. Set to appear during a court appearance on Wednesday, he faces terror charges along with 10 other rights defenders who could be jailed up to 15 years if convicted.

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 Kılıç’s phone commissioned by Amnesty International found that there is no trace of ByLock ever having been on his phone. 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.

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