US demands Turkish gov’t to free Amnesty’s Kılıç and end state of emergency

US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert (L) and Taner Kılıç.

The US State Department has criticised Turkey for its treatment of the jailed Amnesty International Turkey Chairman Taner Kılıç and called for an end to the country’s protracted state of emergency at a press briefing on Tuesday.

Kılıç and 10 other human rights activists face charges for “membership of a terrorist organisation”, following a two-day rights workshop they held on the island of Büyükada, off İstanbul, in 2017. They were arrested during Turkey’s ongoing state of emergency, in place since shortly after the failed coup attempt in July 2016.

The chair of the Turkish branch of Amnesty International was re-arrested last week shortly after a court ordered his release pending trial.

According to a report by online news outlet Ahval, The United States State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert issued a statement as the topper during the press briefing, saying “the United States is deeply troubled by the February 1 re-arrest by Turkish authorities of Kılıç, who has been in pre-trial detention since June 2017.”

Nauert continued to say “We are closely following Mr. Kılıç’s case, along with those against other respected human rights defenders, journalists, civil society leaders, and opposition politicians, whose ongoing prosecution under the state of emergency has chilled freedom of expression and raises serious concerns about respect for judicial independence and the due process protections enshrined in the Turkish constitution.”

The US State Department also called on the Turkish government “to take concrete steps to end the protracted state of emergency and safeguard the rule of law, consistent with Turkey’s own domestic and international obligations and commitments.”

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

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.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Interior Minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. Previously, on December 13, 2017, The Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, said Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Dec. 2, 2018. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “Even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.”

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