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


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”

248774_Human rights statue Ankara

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.

238116_ZEHRA DOGAN - Free Turkey journalists

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


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

Turkey : Free Human Rights Defenders

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


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


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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The US State Department Speaks Out About Taner’s Case, Calls on Turkish Government to End State of Emergency

Demonstration against the detention of Amnesty Turkey staff, London, July 2017

Yesterday, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert directly addressed the continued detention of Amnesty Turkey’s Chair Taner Kilic, and the deterioration of the rule of law in the country.

The United States is deeply troubled by the February 1 rearrest by Turkish authorities of the Amnesty International Turkey chairman, Taner Kilic. He’s been in pretrial detention since June of 2017. We’re closely following his case along with those against other respected human rights defenders, journalists, civil society leaders, and opposition politicians whose ongoing prosecution under the state of emergency has chilled freedom of expression and raises serious concerns about respect for judicial independence and the due process protections enshrined in the Turkish constitution.

We call on the Turkish Government to end the protracted state of emergency, to release those detained arbitrarily under the emergency authorities, and to safeguard the rule of law consistent with Turkey’s own domestic and international obligations and commitments.

The State Department is just the latest in a series of statements by branches and members of the United States government to condemn Taner’s prosecution and detention. In response to Taner’s re-arrest, the US Helsinki Commission, an independent government agency which promotes human rights, military and economic cooperation in the 57 nations which make up the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (which includes Turkey) re issued it’s letter from October, which called for

…the timely, transparent, and fair adjudication of the [cases of Taner and the Istanbul 10], lift the state of emergency and immediately restore Turkey’s commitment to international standards of due process and judicial independence.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee called Taner’s detention “illegal” and noted that it is “yet another example of the erosion of democracy in Turkey.”

Another Congressional Committee, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, tweeted that by keeping Taner in jail, Turkey’s government is “undermin[ing] basic human rights and rule of law.”

Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire issued the harshest criticism.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster will visit Turkey next week are expected to address the current tension between the two countries, particularly the ongoing situation in northern Syria. State Department Spokesperson Nauert confirmed that Tillerson would bring up the concerns articulated in this latest briefing while in Turkey.

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Taner’s Re-arrest Devastates his Family and Supporters

Taner Kilic

Yesterday, Taner’s family and friends celebrated a brief moment of joy when, after 8 months in detention, the court finally ruled for his release. However, that joy soon turned to mourning. Prosecutors appealed the court’s decision and Taner was immediately taken into jandarma custody upon his release. The court which initially ruled for his release has now overturned its own verdict, and Taner will remain in prison.

Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Salil Shetty, released the following statement, emphasizing the cruelty and injustice of the courts’ decisions:

“Over the last 24 hours we have borne witness to a travesty of justice of spectacular proportions. To have been granted release only to have the door to freedom so callously slammed in his face is devastating for Taner, his family and all who stand for justice in Turkey. This latest episode of his malicious detention has dashed the hopes of Taner and those of his wife and daughters who were waiting by the prison gates all day to welcome him into their arms.

“This is the latest example of the crisis in Turkey’s justice system that is ruining lives and hollowing out the right to a fair trial. By riding roughshod over justice and ignoring the overwhelming evidence of his innocence his re-detention only deepens our resolve to continue to fight on Taner’s case. One million voices have already called for his release. He should never have been arrested, and we will not rest until he is free.”

The next court hearing has been set for 21 June, 2018. We are saddened by this setback but will continue to fight for Taner’s freedom. We urgently need you to add your voice, even and especially if you are one of the 1 million who have already demanded that the Turkish government release Taner. Please click here and demand that justice be served and Taner set free.

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