Congress Urges President Trump to Call for the Release of Taner Kılıç and the Istanbul 10

Taner graphic 1 (003)On Wednesday, December 5, President Trump received a letter signed by over 40 members of Congress, urging him to “publicly call on the Government of Turkey to halt the prosecution of [the Istanbul 10], drop all charges against them, and immediately and unconditionally release those still in detention, including Mr. Kılıç.”

Taner Kılıç, the Chair of Turkey section of Amnesty International, has been in pretrial detention for 162 days, charged with “membership of the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization” (FETÖ). No credible evidence has been presented to substantiate the claim that Kılıç is a member of so-called FETÖ or any other terrorist organization. On November 22, the Istanbul Court ruled against the release of Kılıç. The next court hearing for Kılıç and the Istanbul 10 is January 31, 2018.

Naureen Shah, senior director of campaigns at Amnesty International USA, stated that Amnesty welcomes “Congressional support for Taner and the Istanbul 10, especially in light of the court’s decision to keep Taner behind bars.” Shah went on to note that “the world is watching as Turkish authorities continue to unfairly prosecute activists, journalists, and lawyers as part of a massive crackdown on civil society. Amnesty continues to call on Turkish authorities to immediately release Taner Kılıç and drop the absurd charges against him and the Istanbul 10.”

You can read Congress’ letter to President Trump, and check to see if your representative signed on in support, here.

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Amnesty USA campaign calls for action on Turkish rights defenders: Here’s how you can participate

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A joint letter on the prosecution of rights defenders is currently being circulated around Congress.  Are you based in the United States?  Follow this link to learn how you can lend your support. 

A minute of your time now can make all the difference.

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UN experts call for dropping of terror charges against leading human rights defenders in Turkey

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GENEVA (13 November 2017) – A group of United Nations experts* has condemned the use of terrorism charges against human rights defenders and people legitimately expressing dissent in Turkey.

The experts highlighted a number of cases of concern, including the detention of Amnesty Turkey chair Taner Kiliç, the arrest of 10 human rights defenders in July on Buyukada Island, the detention of 14 lawyers from the People’s Law Office, and the recent arrest and charging of leading businessman and civil society activist Osman Kavala.

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“We call for the immediate release of all the human rights defenders and lawyers concerned in these cases, and we appeal to the Turkish authorities to drop the charges of terrorism against them,” the experts said.

These cases demonstrate a worrying pattern of silencing people whose work legitimately calls into question the views and policies of the Government.

Most of these accusations of terrorism are based solely on actions such as downloading data protection software, publishing opinions disagreeing with the Government’s anti-terrorism policies, organizing demonstrations, or providing legal representation for other activists.

The experts said they were concerned that most of the activists remained in detention in conditions that may amount to inhumane or degrading treatment, welcoming the news that some had been granted bail on 25 October 2017.

“Ever since the coup attempt in July 2016 we have witnessed with alarm the arrest, detention and prosecution of people voicing criticism of the Turkish Government and working to protect human rights,” said the experts.

“The people carrying out these activities are lawfully exercising their civil and political rights, and the Turkish authorities are failing to present evidence that such expression poses a risk to national security amounting to terrorism.”

The experts had previously voiced concerns on the issue of the detention of several human rights defenders on 14 July 2017.

ENDS

*The UN experts: Ms. Annalisa Ciampi, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Chair-Rappourteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; 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.

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First White House comment on unjust imprisonment of civil society members and journalists in Turkey

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According to the White House, in today’s meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, Vice President Mike Pence expressed deep concern over the arrests of members of civil society in Turkey, urging transparency and due process in their cases. This is the first time the White House has commented on the issue of unjust imprisonment of journalists and civil society members in Turkey, which includes organizations like Amnesty International.

Ten human rights activists, including İdil Eser, executive director of Amnesty Turkey, were arrested on baseless charges on July 5. Taner Kılıç, chair of Amnesty Turkey, was arrested a month earlier.

We welcome Vice President Pence’s support for human rights defenders in Turkey at this critical time, as the crackdown on civil society persists,” said Naureen Shah, senior director of campaigns at Amnesty International USA. “Despite dedicating their lives to defending human rights, Taner Kılıç and the Istanbul 10 still face up to 15 years in prison on absurd terror charges. We will not stop fighting until all charges against Taner Kılıç and the Istanbul 10 are immediately dropped.”

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Unpaid Volunteer Opportunity: Turkey Specialist for Amnesty – USA

Amnesty International USA’s Turkey Coordination Group (also known as Cogroup) seeks a new volunteer leader to join our team of skilled, dedicated Turkey Country Specialists.  The Turkey Cogroup works closely with AI staff and others to advance human rights in Turkey. This is a non-paid position except for expenses related to Cogroup work.

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An Important Victory: Turkish Court Releases Rights Defenders

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Following a decision by a court in Istanbul to conditionally release eight human rights defenders while their trial continues, Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General said:

Today, finally, we celebrate that our friends and colleagues can go back with their loved ones and can sleep in their own beds for the first time in almost four months.

But any joy is tainted by the ongoing detention of Amnesty International’s chair, Taner Kılıç, whose separate trial is due to start tomorrow.

These politically motivated 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.

Tonight we take a brief moment to celebrate, but tomorrow we will continue our struggle to ensure that Taner, İdil and their colleagues are acquitted of these baseless charges. We will not stop until the charges are dropped and all of them are free.

BACKGROUND

Ten activists, including İdil Eser, the Director of Amnesty Turkey, were arrested on July 5, whilst Amnesty International’s Turkey Chair, Taner Kılıç, was arrested a month earlier. They are accused of “membership of a terrorist organization”.

Kılıç will also appear at a hearing tomorrow in Izmir on a separate charge of “membership of the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization.”

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As court accepts indictment of rights defenders, Amnesty condemns “politically motivated prosecution”

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Amnesty International has responded to news today that a court has accepted the indictment of eleven Turkish rights defenders, including Amnesty-Turkey’s Director and Chair.

“This indictment fails to provide a shred of incriminating evidence to substantiate the trumped up terrorism charges it contains. In accepting this indictment the Istanbul Court has missed a golden opportunity to bring this grotesque miscarriage of justice to a halt,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.

The 11 defendants are set to have their first hearing on 25 October in Istanbul. Taner Kiliç is set appear before an Izmir court under a separate indictment on 26 October 2017.

Amnesty International will be sending observers to both trials and will publish a critique of the case against them next week.

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Helsinki Commission calls on Turkey to respect human rights, condemns prosecution of rights defenders

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Congress’ Helsinki Commission published a bipartisan letter condemning the undermining of “human rights and democratic principles in Turkey.”  The letter focused on a number of concerns, including the prosecution of rights defenders:

It is clear that terrorism charges under the state of emergency are also being manipulated to suppress the activism of a group of human rights defenders arrested in early July. Authorities seized a group of ten Turkish and international activists holding a routine human rights defenders workshop in Istanbul. The group of activists, which has come to be known as the Istanbul 10 and includes Amnesty International’s Turkey Director, Ms. İdil Eser, is charged with “committing crime in the name of a terrorist organization without being a member.” A month earlier, Amnesty International’s Turkey Board Chair, Mr. Taner Kılıç, was arrested on charges of being a member of an alleged terrorist organization. Ms. Eser, Mr. Kılıç, and many of their colleagues remain in pre-trial detention.

The letter represents the growing international concern at the on-going rights abuses and the outrage caused by the targeting of rights defenders under terror statutes.

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The Time is Now: How you can take action for imprisoned human rights defenders in Turkey

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As part of the global day of action on October 14, Amnesty USA has created tools to help you make your voice heard in defense of detained human rights workers in TurkeyAccess it here.  The time is now.

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100 Days of Unjust Detention for Human Rights Defenders in Turkey

 

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Human rights defenders in Turkey are jailed for the very work of defending human rights.  For most of those detained after the police raid on a routine training session in Istanbul, today marks their 100th day of unjust imprisonment.

Ten activists, including İdil Eser, the Director of Amnesty Turkey, were arrested on July 5. Amnesty International’s Turkey Chair, Taner Kılıç, was arrested a month earlier. On October 4, a prosecutor filed an indictment calling for jail terms of up to 15 years for all 11 human rights defenders on absurd and trumped up terrorism charges.  The gimcrack evidence against them largely consists of work they did in defense of human rights in Turkey.  Their pretrial detention amounts to nothing more than punishment in advance of any trial, a now routine tactic against those who criticize government abuses.

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