Yesterday morning, Taner Kiliç, the Chair of Amnesty International Turkey, was arrested in his hometown of Izmir in Turkey alongside 22 other lawyers on suspicion of having links with the Fethullah Gülen movement. ARTICLE 19 calls for their immediate release and for the dropping of all charges in the absence of evidence of involvement in an internationally recognised crime.
“The arrest of 23 lawyers, including the Chair of Amnesty International in Turkey, sends an alarming signal of the further closure of civil society space in Turkey,” said Katie Morris, Head of Europe and Central Asia at ARTICLE 19. “While it is not yet clear what evidence is held against these individuals, we’ve seen worrying legal cases in Turkey where the charges are incoherent and inconsistent, with little or no supporting evidence apart from the content of the individual’s expression or tenuous evidence linking them to the Gülen movement. Turkey should take immediate steps to restore the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law. A good first step would be to release all those detained without evidence of involvement in a crime,” she added.
At 06:30 am this morning, Kiliç was detained at his home before being placed in police custody in the Yeşilyurt district of Izmir. The detention order refers to an investigation into suspected members of the “Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation”. Amnesty’s report on the arrest states that it is currently unclear why Kiliç is suspected of having these links, however his detention does not seem to be connected to his involvement with Amnesty International or the organisation’s work more broadly.
According to the report, Kiliç “has served on the board of Amnesty International Turkey for various periods since 2002 and has been Chair since 2014. During his decades of work for human rights organisations in Turkey he has consistently demonstrated an unswerving commitment to human rights.”
Following the violent coup attempt on 15 July 2016, the Turkish government has pursued an unprecedented crackdown on human rights, including on the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to a fair trial. According to latest figures from Turkish press freedom organisation, P24, approximately 167 journalists and media workers are in jail in Turkey, the vast majority of whom were arrested after Turkey declared a state of emergency following the coup attempt.
ARTICLE 19 calls on the Turkish government to release Taner Kiliç and the 22 lawyers detained with him immediately and drop all charges against them in the absence of individualised evidence of involvement in an internationally recognised crime. We also reiterate our call to immediately and unconditionally release all other human rights defenders, journalists and media workers arrested without any individualised evidence of involvement in a crime.