Today Should Be Taner’s Last Day in Prison

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Today, more than a year after he was first imprisoned, Taner Kilic, Amnesty Turkey’s Honorary Chair, will appear before a judge. Just a few days ago, a police report submitted on his case found no evidence that Taner ever had ByLock, a messaging app, on his phone. The entire case against Taner centered around the accusation that Taner had this app, which the Turkish government claims was used by conspirators involved in the July 2016 coup attempt to communicate. In response to the report Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, emphasized that

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.

Despite the injustice that Taner has been subjected to, he remains resolute about his commitment to serving the cause of human rights.  Secretary General Shetty spoke with Taner yesterday and relayed the following message.

Even while suffering this injustice, Taner is thinking of others. Rather than talk about his own situation, he was keen to focus on the wider issue of human rights violations in Turkey and stress his ongoing commitment to continue his fight against rights abuses. He also wanted to send his gratitude to all those around the world who have supported calls for his release.

Tomorrow I will be in court for Taner’s fourth hearing. Not a shred of credible evidence has been presented to substantiate the absurd charges made against him, so Taner must now be released.

Nothing can bring back the precious moments that Taner has missed, but tomorrow the court can put an end to this injustice and allow Taner to return to his family and resume his vital work.

A number of representatives from Amnesty International will be in court today. Follow  @salilshetty @KateAllenAI @ManonSchick @GaurivanGulik @Fotis_Filippou @andrewegardner @MilenaBuyum for updates on the hearing and Taner’s status.

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European Officials Speak Out on Anniversary of Taner’s Imprisonment

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June 6 marked the 1 year anniversary of Amnesty Turkey’s Honorary Chair Taner Kilic’s arrest and imprisonment. Ordinary citizens as well as government representatives marked the day with renewed calls to end this injustice and release Taner.

The spokesperson for the European External Action Service (EEAS), the diplomatic service and foreign and defence ministry of the European Union, acknowledged that Taner is not alone in being unjustly detained

Taner Kılıҫ, the Head of Amnesty International in Turkey, was detained a year ago. Mr. Kiliç is a lawyer and human rights defender and like him, many other human rights defenders such as Osman Kavala, as well as journalists, members of Parliament, judges, prosecutors, and academics remain in detention.

The authorities in Turkey – a EU candidate country and member of the Council of Europe – need to ensure the right to fair trail, a legal process, on the basis of the principle of presumption of innocence and in line with the European Convention of Human Rights and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.

Bärbel Kofler, the Gernman Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy, pointed to the lack of evidence that Taner is guilty of any crime.

Exactly one year has passed since Taner Kılıç, a respected lawyer and former Chair of the Board of Amnesty International in Turkey was arrested in Izmir.

I am most concerned by the fact that Taner Kılıç is still in custody, even though law enforcement authorities have yet to produce any evidence to substantiate the serious allegations made against him.

His trial stands as a symbol of the large number of accused representatives of civil society who are now subject to criminal prosecution in Turkey.

I therefore urgently call on Turkey, in line with its international obligations, to grant Mr Kılıç and all other affected individuals a fair and transparent trial.

If the charges brought against him remain unsubstantiated, then he must be released immediately.

Taner’s next hearing is on June 21st. Help support Taner by sending him a message of solidarity and join the more than a million voices worldwide who haver already called for Taner’s release.

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365 Days

One year ago today, Amnesty Turkey’s Honorary Chair Taner Kilic was imprisoned on false charges. He has missed a year of his life and a year of his family’s life.

 

Despite Taner’s extended imprisonment, Turkish prosecutors have not presented any evidence that he is guilty of any crime. It is only the fact that he is a passionate, life-long defender of human rights that is keeping him in jail.

Today we mourn the year of Taner Kılıç’s life that Turkey’s government has unjustly taken from him, but this is also a moment to redouble our efforts to secure his release and that of many other civil society activists whose work has cost them their freedom,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. “The evidence of Taner’s innocence is emphatic. His detention is a gross injustice that exposes Turkey’s flawed justice system and the government’s cold-blooded pursuit of anyone deemed to oppose them.”

Taner’s next hearing is June 21 and we are doing everything we can to secure his release.

Read more about Taner’s case here and send Taner a message to let him know he is not alone. We will not stop fighting until Taner is home with his family.

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LGBTI+ Turks Still Need Your Support

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Copyright Getty Images. Not for download or reproduction.

On May 11, hundreds of LGBTI+ students and their allies at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara defied an official, province-wide ban on LGBTI- focused events and marched in support of LGBTI+ rights. Unlike other recent LGBTI+ marches in Turkey, including the annual pride parade in Istanbul, the student’s march proceeded without police intervention.

In response to the march, Fotis Filippou, Amnesty International’s Campaigns Director for Europe said:

Today love triumphed in Turkey as hundreds of university students defied a blanket ban on LGBTI events in Ankara and went ahead with their annual Pride march. Their action sent a message of hope to all those struggling to withstand the climate of fear and uphold fundamental rights in Turkey and beyond.

But whilst their courage and determination is an inspiration to all activists fighting for freedom and equality in the face of repression, the fact these students had to fight for their right  to hold a peaceful march in the first place is disgraceful. Ankara’s authorities must now lift the unlawful and ridiculous blanket ban on all LGBTI events.

The student’s march was a small victory, but all events in support of or discussing LGBTI+ individuals must also be allowed to proceed in the same manner. Click here to tell the Governor of Ankara to lift the ban on LGBTI+ events in his province.

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Amnesty’s new report on human rights and human rights defenders in Turkey: “In today’s Turkey, even merely existing is a struggle”

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Human Rights Statue in Ankara, which was fenced off by authorities after it became central to a series of protests in 2017

Amnesty’s new report detailing the decline human rights in Turkey over the past several years, titled “Weathering the Storm: Defending human rights in Turkey’s climate of fear” was released today. The report highlights “the ways in which the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, to liberty and security, and to fair trials have been eroded” with damning statistics on the number of civilians arrested, NGOs and media outlets closed down, and journalists imprisoned since the failed coup attempt in July of 2016.

In today’s Turkey, even merely existing is a struggle. —Murat Celikkan, journalist and human rights defender

The bulk of the report focuses on some of the most iconic and important cases of prosecuted and imprisoned civil society figures, journalists, lawyers and NGO workers, included Osman Kavala, Eren Keskin, Zehra Dogan and Amnesty’s honorary chair Taner Kilic.

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Zehra Doğan, the editor of JINHA, was detained on 21 July 2016 in Mardin, southeastern Turkey, and remanded in pre-trial detention on 23 July on charges of membership of and making propaganda for a terrorist organization. 
“I was strip searched [by two women police officers] when I was detained in Mardin. When they took me to the Anti-Terrorism branch, I was strip searched again. Police officers told me ‘there is a state of emergency now, all the rights are ours, we can do whatever we want.’ They threatened me with torture. One of them suggested I should become his lover, that if I did so, he would save me. It was awful. I kept on saying I am a journalist.”  Photo by Refik Tekin

The report emphasizes the fear and self censorship that are now pervasive among Turks in all walks of life and the extremely damaging effect this has on civil society and human rights.

The aim is to maintain the climate of fear. When you are in police detention you are very scared for your family. We are all scared… It’s arbitrary, it’s not predictable, it cannot be effectively challenged so there is impunity. — Osman Isci, General Secretary of the Human Rights Association

The legal cover for this civil society crackdown is primarily attributed to the ongoing state of emergency, which was just renewed for a seventh time since the coup attempt. Amnesty calls it an “increasingly permanent feature of how Turkey governed” and warns that independent civil society may be completely wiped out in Turkey if it is not lifted.

You can take action, read and download the entire report here.

 

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DOS Human Rights Report: “Intensifying Government Pressure” on Human Rights Groups in Turkey

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The US Department of State released its annual human rights report on Friday, and the section on Turkey paints a grim picture of the state of human rights and the treatment of human rights defenders. The report notes that “human rights groups reported intensifying government pressure” and presents the cases of Amnesty’s honorary chair, Taner Kilic, and director, Idil Eser, who were both arrested last summer, as examples of this “pressure.”

The cases of Taner, Idil, and the Istanbul 10 (which they dub the “Buyukada 10” in the report) are also presented as examples of the repression of freedom of expression and freedom of association. The section on freedom of expression is representative of much of the report:

Individuals in many cases could not criticize the state or government publicly without risk of civil or criminal suits or investigation, and the government restricted expression by individuals sympathetic to some religious, political, or cultural viewpoints. At times many who wrote or spoke on sensitive topics or in ways critical of the government risked investigation…

Human rights groups reported intensifying government pressure that, in certain cases, resulted in enhanced caution in their public reporting. On November 1, leading philanthropist and widely respected civil society figure leader Osman Kavala was arrested and subsequently charged with terrorism-related crimes. Observers widely viewed his detention as politically motivated. On July 5, police detained eight leading human rights activists, including Amnesty International Turkey director Idil Eser as well as two foreign trainers, during a workshop in Buyukada, near Istanbul, on terrorism grounds. On June 6, police detained Taner Kilic, the founder and chair of Amnesty International Turkey, in Izmir along with 22 others for alleged Gulen ties and in part for allegedly using the ByLock mobile application, a claim rejected by Amnesty International (see section 5). Critics alleged Kilic’s detention stemmed from government displeasure with Amnesty reporting critical of the government. In October a court released the “Buyukada 10” pending the outcome of their trial, which continued at year’s end. Kilic and Kavala remained in pretrial detention, with judicial proceedings against them continuing at year’s end.

You can download or read the entire report here.

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A Grim Anniversary: Taner’s 300th Day in Prison

Taner has spent 300 days in prison and, despite the fact a judge had ruled for his release, there is no end in sight. We demand justice for Taner.

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ECHR Determines that Rights of Altan and Alpay were Violated

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On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on the case journalists Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay, who have been imprisioned since September of 2016. Altan and Alpay are accused of using coded language to support the coup attempt in July of 2016. In January, Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled that the rights of Altan and Alpay had been violated, and that they should therefore be released from pre-trial detention immediately. A lower court objected to the ruling and the two journalists ultimately remained in prison.

Altan was ultimately convicted and given a life sentence for his alleged crimes. Alpay was released from prison on March 16, but is still under judicial control and the charges against him have not been dropped.

In response to the ECHR’s ruling, Amnesty International’s Europe Director, Gauri van Gulik said:

Today’s rulings are a resounding vindication for these two journalists and a damning indictment of Turkey’s justice system… This ruling cements what was already common knowledge: that they – like more than one hundred other journalists in Turkey – were imprisoned simply for doing their important journalistic work.

This is the first time the ECHR has ruled on a case of individuals detained due to alleged involved in the Turkish coup attempt. There are dozens of other such cases still pending, including that of Amnesty International chair Taner Kılıç.

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Amnesty’s Taner Kilic Spends His 49th Birthday in Prison

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Today, we wish Amnesty Turkey Chair Taner Kilic dogum gununu kutlu olsun (happy birthday). On the occasion of his birthday, Taner’s wife Hatice has been so kind as to share the following reflections on Taner’s ongoing imprisonment:

Today is my husband’s 49th birthday, but I won’t get to see him. For me and my three daughters, it will just be another agonising day without my husband, their father.

My name is Hatice Kılıç and my husband, Taner, has been held in prison in Turkey for more than nine months despite having committed no crime. He was charged with “membership of a terrorist organization”, falsely accused of being involved in the 2016 coup attempt. But there’s no evidence to substantiate this claim, and three independent forensic experts have refuted this.

But if my husband is found guilty, he could face up to 15 years in jail.

About a month ago, we were elated to hear that Taner was due to be released. I stood with my three daughters in the freezing cold waiting for that first hug in nine months, to feel relief at last. But it was not to be. A last-minute appeal meant that Taner’s release was overturned – he was simply driven right past us and taken back into prison.

Our hearts broke again that night, as they have broken every day for nine months without him. My daughter Gülnihal rightly said it’s like a bad dream but we can’t seem to wake up. “It is not something that becomes normal over time,” she said. “On the contrary, my father’s imprisonment becomes more and more difficult for us to endure as each day passes.”

And today, on his birthday, I wonder how he is all on his own without us, and when I will hold him again. When my daughters can have their beloved father home. When even a glimpse of normality can come back to our lives.

We think of Taner and his family on this particularly difficult day and look forward to celebrating Taner’s 49th year with him in freedom soon.

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Good News: All 11 Members of the Turkish Medical Association’s Central Council Released

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On January 30, 11 members of the Turkish Medical Association’s Central Council were detained after the Association released a statement calling for the immediate end to the Turkish military’s incursion into Afrin province in Syria. President Erdogan accused the 11 detained doctors of treason, but the head of the Medical Association defended the statement, saying “We acted as we always do as doctors. We have focused on human life and health. We will continue to act as doctors in every setting we are in. We do not accept the charges,” according to Hurriyet Daily News. Amnesty issued an urgent action in the wake of their detention. Three of those detained were released on February 2 and the remaining 8 were released on February 5, though they are still officially under investigation. Amnesty sincerely thanks all our members who sent appeals to the Turkish government on behalf of the detained members of the Turkish Medical Association. If you wish to join Amnesty USA’s Turkey Regional Action Network, and receive alerts about Urgent Actions like the one sent out on behalf of the Turkish Medical Association, please contact us via the TURKRAN Facebook page.

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