Amnesty calls on Tillerson to push for release of its Turkey chair

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AI's Taner Kılıç (L) and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Amnesty International’s (AI) board of directors has written a letter to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asking him to call for the immediate release of the organization’s Turkey chair, Taner Kılıç, who has been under detention since June 6, according to an online press release from the AI on Wednesday.

The letter notes the US State Department’s strong press statement on Kılıç’s case and calls on Tillerson to issue his own statement “calling for his immediate unconditional release and the dismissal of all charges against him. ”

In a statement on June 7, the US State Department issued a statement regarding Kılıç’s detention in which it expressed its concerns and said Kılıç’s detention is the latest in a series of detentions of respected human rights defenders, journalists, academics and activists in Turkey.

“These detentions, often with little evidence or transparency, are an alarming trend. 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. As we have expressed to the Turkish government on numerous occasions, persistent curbs on free speech and other freedoms erode the foundations of democratic society,” said the US State Department’s statement.

The AI’s letter also requests that Tillerson instruct the US ambassador to Turkey to meet with Kılıç’s family and to observe any court proceedings involving his case.

Kılıç was arrested by an İzmir court on June 10 as part of an investigation into the faith-based Gülen movement.

On June 14 AI launched a campaign for urgent action against the imprisonment of Kılıç.
Since then, members of the organization have been sending messages of solidarity by taking photos with #FreeTanerKılıc signs and posting them on social media.

Kılıç is a founding member of AI Turkey and has been chairman of its board of directors since 2014. He has also played a strong role in advocating for refugee rights as a lawyer and with domestic nongovernmental groups and others working on these issues.

He is accused of using the ByLock smartphone application.

ByLock is considered by Turkish authorities to be the top communication tool among followers of the Gülen movement, which is accused by the government of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

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.

Tens of thousands of civil servants, police officers and businessmen have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt last July.

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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