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Lawyer and human rights defender Taner Kılıç, chair of the board of Amnesty International’s Turkey section. © 2017 Amnesty International

(Istanbul) – The decision by a Turkish court to send human rights defender Taner Kılıç to pretrial detention is a serious injustice, Human Rights Watch said today.

Taner Kılıç is a lawyer and chair of the board of Amnesty International’s Turkey section. Late at night on June 9, 2017, Izmir Criminal Peace Judge No. 3 ruled to remand Kılıç to pretrial detention on suspicion of being a member of the Fethullahist Terror Organization, citing alleged facts that do not constitute evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Kılıç was detained by anti-terror police in Izmir on June 6, 2017, and had been in police custody since then.

“Taner Kılıç’s arrest and now jailing are a travesty of justice,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe & Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Turkey’s authorities should drop the charges against Kılıç and release him at once.”

The government claims that the Gülen movement is behind the failed coup attempt in Turkey in 2016, characterizes it as an armed group, and uses the country’s overbroad antiterrorism law to pursue those it alleges are associated with the group.

The court decision, seen by Human Rights Watch, cited a report that Kılıç had a secure messaging application used by the Gülen movement downloaded on his phone in 2014, referred to his brother-in-law being an editor of the now closed Gülenist newspaper Zaman, Kılıç’s past subscription to Zaman, and his child’s past attendance at a school closed down under the state of emergency. None of this indicates any evidence of criminal wrongdoing that would justify holding anyone in pretrial detention or support criminal charges, Human Rights Watch said.

Kılıç strongly denies that he has any personal affiliation with the Gülen movement or that he downloaded the messaging app.

“The investigation against Kılıç and his jailing appear to be part of a politically motivated campaign to target him and Amnesty International for legitimate reporting on the deep deterioration in human rights underway in Turkey,” said Williamson.

Kılıç is a founding member of Amnesty International Turkey and has been chair of its board of directors since 2014. He has also played a strong role in advocating for refugee rights as a lawyer and among domestic nongovernmental groups and others working on the issue.

European Union institutions and governments as well as the US government should press for Kılıç’s release and an end to further attacks on the valuable work of Amnesty International in Turkey, Human Rights Watch said.

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