Activists in more than 30 countries will join protests outside Turkish embassies this week demanding the release of Amnesty International Turkey’s Chair and Director as well as other prominent human rights defenders behind bars amid a spiralling crackdown. The demonstrations mark one month since the organisation’s Chair, Taner Kiliç, was remanded in prison on baseless charges, and five days since the Director, Idil Eser, was detained alongside seven other prominent human rights activists. They all face criminal investigations on the absurd suspicion of being members of an ‘armed terrorist organisation’. Amnesty International Ireland will hold a demonstration outside the Turkish embassy on Wednesday, 12 July at 1pm.
“As we approach the first anniversary of the Turkey’s state of emergency, these cases demonstrate just how arbitrary and ferocious the post-coup crackdown on real or perceived opposition has become. This is the first time in our history that Amnesty International has a director and chair from a single country both behind bars. Nineteen years ago, Amnesty International declared President Erdoğan a prisoner of conscience. Now he is presiding over a massive crackdown on human rights in Turkey. With each passing day, the demand for immediate and unconditional release of our colleagues grows louder and it will not be silenced. We will not stand idly by as respected human rights champions are thrown into jail on spurious grounds in a transparently toxic bid to intimidate those brave critical voices in Turkey who have refused to be silenced. While they are behind bars, we will march for them. While they are gagged, we will speak out for them,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.
Idil Eser, seven prominent human rights defenders and two trainers, were detained while attending a routine professional workshop. For over 28 hours the authorities refused to reveal their whereabouts and they were denied the right to call their loved ones. Their detention has been authorised for seven days, and could be extended for a further seven days without them being brought before a court.
Taner Kiliç was detained on 6 June. He was charged three days later with “membership of the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation” and remanded in pre-trial detention. The claim presented by the authorities purportedly linking Taner Kiliç to the Gülen movement is that Bylock, a secure mobile messaging application that the authorities say was used by members of the “Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation”, was on his phone in August 2014.
No evidence has been presented to substantiate this claim, and Taner Kiliç denies ever having downloaded or used Bylock, or even having heard of it, until its alleged use was widely publicised in connection with recent detentions and prosecutions.
“For the last month, my husband has been wrongfully and unlawfully imprisoned. This has been devastating to us. I want to thank all those who stood by us during this period on behalf of my husband and my family. And I hope that all the hard work for him continues until Taner is released from prison,” said Hatice Kılıç, wife of Taner.
Notes to editor:
In addition to Idil Eser, the seven human rights defenders detained are: İlknur Üstün, Women’s Coalition; Günal Kurşun, lawyer, Human Rights Agenda Association; Nalan Erkem, Lawyer, Citizens’ Assembly; Nejat Taştan, Equal Rights Watch Association; Özlem Dalkıran, Citizens’ Assembly; Şeyhmuz Özbekli, lawyer; and Veli Acu, Human Rights Agenda Association.
Taner Kiliç has served on the board of Amnesty International Turkey for various periods since 2002 and has been Chair since 2014. During his decades of work for human rights organisations in Turkey he has consistently demonstrated an unswerving commitment to human rights.