Stefan Simanowitz, Amnesty International’s media director for Europe, has launched a campaign on Twitter protesting the trial of AI Turkey Chair Taner Kılıç, Director Idil Eser and nine other activists on “trumped-up ‘terrorism’ charges,” which carry sentences of up to 15 years.
“The 11 face outlandish ‘terrorism’ charges in what can only be described as a politically motivated prosecution aimed at silencing critical voices within the country. If convicted they could face jail terms of up to 15 years. This sends a chilling message not just to people in Turkey but around the world,” says the signature campaign launched on Twitter.
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 as part of an investigation into the faith-based Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup in July 2016.
On July 5 Turkish police, acting on an anonymous tip, raided a hotel on Büyükada and detained Eser from AI, İlknur Üstün from the Women’s Coalition, lawyer Günal Kurşun from the Human Rights Agenda Association, lawyer Nalan Erkem from the Citizens Assembly, Nejat Taştan from the Equal Rights Watch Association, Özlem Dalkıran from the Citizens’ Assembly, lawyer Şeyhmus Özbekli, Veli Acu from the Human Rights Agenda Association and two foreign trainers, Ali Garawi and Peter Steudtner.
An İstanbul court on Oct. 25 ruled to release eight of the human rights activists, including Eser, who had been in pretrial detention since July 5 on alleged terror links. Four other suspects are also being tried as part of same case but are free on their own recognizance.
Kılıç remains in pretrial detention after a court in İzmir on Oct. 26 declined to grant his release.
“ … when human rights defenders are silenced all our rights are put at risk. They are the ones who stand up for us. Now we must stand up for them. … We will not stay silent. Defending human rights is not a crime,” AI said in its Twitter campaign, which has been signed by such personages as musician Sting, actor Catherine Deneuve, Turkish writer Elif Shafak, ex-President of the UN General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft and AI Secretary General Salil Shetty.
“We are proud to add our voices to the global demand to end this gross injustice and to immediately and unconditionally release Taner Kılıç from jail.”