On 6 June Taner Kılıç became the latest victim of the Turkish government’s sweeping purge after he was detained in the early hours along with 22 other lawyers based in Izmir on suspicion of involvement with the ‘Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation’ – labelled a “terrorist group” by the authorities.
On 9 June he was officially charged with membership of the organisation and remanded in pre-trial detention.
Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said:
‘Taner Kılıç is a principled and passionate human rights defender. The charges brought against him today are completely without merit. They show just how arbitrary, just how sweeping, the Turkish government’s frenzied pursuit of its perceived enemies and critics has become. He must be released immediately and the charges against him dropped.’
Shocking lack of evidence
The only claim that supposedly links Taner to the Gülen movement is that Bylock – a secure mobile messaging application that the authorities say was used by members of the terrorist group – was discovered on his phone in August 2014.
No evidence has been given to back this up and Taner denies ever having downloaded or used Bylock. In fact, he says he’d never even heard of it until its alleged use by the Gülen movement was widely spread in the media.
Taner is neither a supporter nor a follower of the Fethullah Gülen movement and has in fact been critical of its role in Turkey. He must not face trial on the basis of such flimsy and inadequate accusations.
These charges have drawn widespread international condemnation, including from the US State Department, the EU and many international and domestic human rights organisations.
Government’s paranoid crackdown on perceived critics
The crackdown since the failed government coup on 15 July 2016 has been astonishingly widespread. The numbers reported by CNN as of April 2017 are as follows:
Journalists dismissed: 2,708
Media outlets shut down: 179
We expect these numbers to have risen even higher since.
Among other draconian measures are a ban on TV dating shows, which the Deputy Prime Minister has called “strange programmes that would scrap the institution of family, take away its nobility and sanctity”.
There has also been an attempt at online censorship, including a block on online encyclopedia Wikipedia, and attempted blocks on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Taner’s detention shows how broad the coup has become, going beyond the police and armed forces, penetrating deep into civil society. The Turkish authorities must be held to account for violating the rights of so many citizens.