Turkey: Court releases Amnesty Chair after nearly 8 months in jail
Following a decision by a court in Istanbul to conditionally release the Chair of Amnesty International Turkey, Taner Kılıç, after nearly eight months in detention, Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s Europe Director said:
“It is an enormous relief that Taner will soon be back with his wife and daughters, sleeping in his own bed for the first time in almost eight months. But we cannot forget that many other innocent people remain behind bars without a shred of evidence in Turkey.”
“These unfounded prosecutions are an attempt to silence critical voices within Turkey but have only served to highlight the importance of human rights and those who dedicate their lives to defending them.
“Today we take a brief moment to celebrate, but tomorrow we will continue our struggle to have all charges dropped against Taner, the Istanbul 10, and all other innocent victims wrongfully caught up in this vicious crackdown.”
“We thank the more than a million people who called for Taner’s release. They have shown that when we take injustice personally, and we act and speak with one voice, we will be heard.”
While Taner has now been released, the trial against him, İdil Eser and the other nine human rights defenders on trumped-up terrorism related charges continues. It is one of many baseless prosecutions against members of civil society under the crackdown in Turkey.
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A delegation of Amnesty International directors from around the world attended the trial. Follow Kate Allen (UK - @KateAllenAI), Sylvie Brigot-Vilain (France - @sylviebrigot), Jon Peder Egernaes (Norway - @johnpeder) and Europe Director Gauri van Gulik (@GaurivanGulik). Also follow Amnesty’s Senior Advisor and Researcher on Turkey Andrew Gardner @andrewegardner
Amnesty International’s Turkey Chair, Taner Kılıç, was detained on 6 June 2017 and sent to jail three days later, where he has been ever since. Ten other activists “the Istanbul 10”, 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.
The Istanbul 10 were accused of “membership of a terrorist organization”, a baseless allegation for which the prosecution has yet to provide any concrete evidence that would stand up to scrutiny.
Taner Kılıç is alleged to have downloaded and used the ByLock messaging application, which the prosecution has claimed was used by the Gülen movement to communicate with each other. However, two independent forensic analyses of Taner’s phone commissioned by Amnesty International found that there is no trace of ByLock ever having been on it. So far, the prosecution have not provided any evidence to prove their claim and demonstrate any criminal wrongdoing.
Last month, 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. Taner Kılıç is not yet among those listed for release.
More than a million people from 194 countries and territories have signed Amnesty International appeals demanding the release of Taner Kılıç and the other human rights defenders in Turkey since their arrest last summer. Scores of well-known figures have called for the release of Taner and the dropping of charges against him and the Istanbul 10.