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AI: Imprisonment of Amnesty chair is a devastating injustice

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Amnesty International (AI) on Friday reacted to the arrest of Taner Kiliç, the chair of Amnesty International Turkey, for alleged membership in a terrorist organization, saying the decision is “a mockery of justice, and highlights the devastating impact of the Turkish authorities’ crackdown following a failed coup attempt in July last year.”

Kılıç who 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, was arrested by an İzmir court on Friday.

“Taner Kiliç 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.”

According to the AI statement, the only claim presented by the authorities purportedly linking Kiliç 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 Kiliç 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.

“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 Shetty.
Shetty underlined that Amnesty International would campaign tirelessly for Taner’s release and continue its work in and on Turkey undeterred.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) also reacted to the arrest of Kılıç.
“Jailing Amnesty Turkey head pending trial on membership of terrorist group shows again the horror show of Turkey’s courts. #FreeTanerKılıç,” HRW’s Turkey director Emma Sinclair-Webb tweeted on Friday

Kiliç’s detention takes place in the context of an escalating crackdown on human rights by the Turkish authorities, following a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement, which strongly denies the accusation.

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.

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