Turkey illegally imprisons Amnesty International chief

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey has unlawfully detained the head of Amnesty International’s national branch for 14 months, the European Court of Human Rights said in a ruling on Tuesday.

Taner Kilic was imprisoned after his arrest in June 2017 on suspicion of belonging to the group that Ankara accuses of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016.

However, the Strasbourg court ruled there were no reasonable grounds to suspect his detention, which it called “unlawful and arbitrary”.

She also decided that his imprisonment on a second set of terrorism-related charges was “directly linked to his work as a human rights defender” and therefore infringed his freedom of expression.

Turkey was ordered to pay 24,500 euros ($26,300) in damages and 10,000 euros ($10,735) in costs by the court, which upholds the European Convention on Human Rights.

Kilic, a human rights lawyer who is now honorary chairman of Amnesty Turkey, was initially arrested on suspicion of using an encrypted phone messaging app associated with the group widely seen in the country as being at the origin of the attempt to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Led by Fethullah Gulen, a former imam who has lived in the United States since 1999, the group has been branded by Ankara as a terrorist organization. Gulen has always denied any involvement in the failed putsch.

Kilic was accused of belonging to the group over his alleged use of the phone app as well as other alleged connections, such as newspaper subscriptions, his children’s schooling and holding accounts at a linked bank. to the Gulen movement.

The court concluded that this “mere circumstantial evidence” did not give rise to a reasonable suspicion of having committed the offence.

He was later accused of links with other terrorist organizations. However, the court said the charges relate to “the ordinary peaceful and legal acts of a human rights defender”, such as organizing a workshop for civil society groups, exchanging messages on demonstrations and raising awareness of rights violations.

Kilic was sentenced to six years and three months in prison in July 2020 for membership in a terrorist organization. He is currently free pending a verdict on appeal.

“Despite the fact that every allegation against him was fully exposed as baseless during the trial, the Turkish court has convicted Taner Kilic, who still risks returning to prison to serve the remainder of his politically motivated sentence,” he said. said Nils Muiznieks. , European Director of Amnesty.

Calling for the conviction to be overturned, Muiznieks described the case as part of a broader crackdown on rights and freedoms.

The European Court of Human Rights has already ruled against the detention of two high profile detainees in Turkey – Selahattin Demirtas and Osman Kavala.

Demirtas, the former leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, has been in prison since 2016 on a wide range of charges, while philanthropist Kavala was sentenced to life without parole in April for his links to protests in 2013.

Sharon P. Juarez