GENEVA (16 February 2018) – A group of United Nations experts* has issued a fresh call to the Turkish authorities to release the chair of Amnesty International Turkey, Taner Kiliç, who has been held since June 2017 on terrorism charges.
“We are concerned by the seemingly arbitrary detention of Taner Kiliç, which is evidently linked to his work in defending human rights,” the five experts said in a joint statement released in Geneva.
“We are particularly dismayed that only one day after an Istanbul court had ordered his conditional release, the decision was reversed by another court. We call on the Turkish authorities to immediately release Mr. Kiliç and drop the terrorism charges against him.”
An Istanbul court ordered Mr. Kiliç’s conditional release from pre-trial detention on 31 January 2018, but the prosecutor appealed the ruling and he was re-arrested and moved into Gendarmerie custody the following day and subsequently to a new prison.
His lawyers have appealed the decision. The subsequent review of the case will take place next month, and the next court hearing is scheduled for 21 June 2018.
Mr. Kiliç, a lawyer and longstanding human rights defender, has been charged with membership of the “Fethullah Gülen terrorist organization”. The experts said they were concerned by the repeated use of terrorism laws against human rights defenders and others in Turkey.
Under the state of emergency law, in place since the attempted coup of 2016, thousands of people have been detained over suspected links with Fethullah Gülen, who is accused by the Government of ordering the failed coup.
“The case of Mr. Kiliç forms part of an increasingly worrying pattern of silencing people whose work legitimately calls into question the views and policies of the Government,” the experts said. “We reiterate our concerns at the use of terrorism charges to target the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression and freedom of association. The authorities have presented no evidence that people exercising these rights pose a risk to national security amounting to terrorism.
“Most of these accusations of terrorism are based solely on actions such as downloading data protection software, including the ByLock application, publishing opinions disagreeing with the Government’s anti-terrorism policies, organizing demonstrations, or providing legal representation for other activists.
“While reiterating our appeal to the Turkish authorities to drop the charges of terrorism against human rights defenders, we also call on the Government to allow them to work freely and safely.”
The experts have previously voiced concerns about the detention of Mr. Kiliç and other leading human rights defenders, and have relayed their concerns to the Turkish Government.
* The UN experts: Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Ms. Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; and Mr. Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.