The United States on Wednesday expressed “deep concern” about the recent detention of Taner Kılıç, the chair of Amnesty International Turkey, as part of a witch-hunt targeting people linked to the Gülen movement.
“The United States is deeply concerned by the recent detention of Taner Kiliç, Chair of Amnesty International Turkey — the latest in a series of respected human rights defenders, journalists, academics, and activists detained in Turkey,” US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement.
Underlining that these detentions, often with little evidence or transparency, are an alarming trend, Nauert said: “We are closely following these cases, and underscore the importance of respect for due process and individual rights, as enshrined in the Turkish Constitution and consistent with Turkey’s own international commitments.”
Nauert repeated the US position that “persistent curbs on free speech and other freedoms erode the foundations of democratic society.”
“Turkey benefits from having more engaged voices, not fewer. The detentions of individuals such as Mr. Kilic chill public debate and undermine the quality of democracy.”
Kılıç was detained at his home in the western Turkish city of Izmir along with 22 other attorneys.
A military coup attempt on July 15 killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with 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 attempt.