AI calls for release of honorary chair after prosecutor fails to make case

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Activists of the human rights organisation Amnesty International demonstrate for the liberation of Turkish civil rights activist Taner Kilic on February 7, 2018 in front of the Turkish embassy in Berlin. Taner Kilic, the head of Amnesty International in Turkey, has been held since June 2017 in the western Turkish city of Izmir, accused of links to US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen who Turkey says ordered a failed coup in July 2016. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Paul Zinken / Germany OUT

Amnesty International (AI) has renewed its call for the immediate release and acquittal of its honorary Turkey chair, Taner Kılıç, based on a police report submitted by the prosecution which confirms that no evidence of the ByLock mobile phone application was found on Kılıç’s phone, an allegation that was central to the case against the jailed rights defender.

“The failure to substantiate the accusation against Taner comes as no shock. What is shocking is that it has taken more than a year for this police report to be submitted, and during that time Taner has been locked behind bars,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary-general.

“Without a shred of credible evidence presented to substantiate the absurd charges made against him, Taner must now be released. The charges and his detention fly in the face of justice and must be brought to an end once and for all.”

Taner’s trial and that of 10 other human rights defenders resumes in Istanbul on June 21.

Taner was initially detained by police on June 6, 2017 and later charged with membership in a terrorist organization. The central accusation against him is the claim that he had downloaded ByLock, a messaging app the Turkish government claims was used by the Gülen movement, who the authorities accuse of masterminding a 2016 coup attempt.

However, after more than a year, Turkish authorities have still not been able to provide any credible evidence to substantiate this allegation, or indeed any criminal wrongdoing.

The police report — seen by Amnesty International – reveals that forensic examinations were carried out on Kılıç’s laptop, mobile phone, three USB drives, a SIM card and a memory card. ByLock does not appear on the list of items found on the phone, including deleted applications.

This corroborates the findings of four independent forensic reports previously submitted to the court. All found no evidence that Kılıç had downloaded or used the ByLock app.

“Nothing can bring back the precious moments that Taner has missed, like his oldest daughter’s graduation, or he and his wife Hatice’s 25th wedding anniversary. The court can put an end to this injustice on 21 June and allow Taner to return to his family and resume his vital work,” said Shetty.

Kılıç was detained in June 2017 and sent to jail three days later, where he has been ever since. Ten other activists, including İdil Eser, the director of Amnesty International Turkey, were detained a month later. Eight of them were held for almost four months before being released on bail at their first hearing in October.

They are all accused of membership in a terrorist organization, a baseless allegation for which the prosecution has yet to provide any concrete evidence that would stand up to scrutiny.

Last December, Turkish authorities admitted that thousands of people have been wrongly accused of downloading ByLock. They published lists containing the numbers of 11,480 mobile phone users, leading to mass releases. Kılıç is not yet among those listed for release.

More than a million people from 184 countries and territories have signed Amnesty International appeals demanding the release of Kılıç and the other human rights defenders since their arrest last summer. Scores of well-known figures have called for his release and the dropping of charges against the Istanbul 10.

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