If you do nothing else this weekend, do this. Take action to free Taer Kiliç from a Turkish cell. You can do so here. I don’t care if you’re a friend, acquaintance, or just someone whose stumbled by this blog. It doesn’t cost you anything, and you’ll have a feeling of having done something positive afterwards.
Taner is the Chair of Turkish Section of Amnesty International. He was detained in the early hours of 6 June 2017, along with 22 others, on suspicion of involvement with what the authorities are calling a “terrorist organisation”, Fethullah Gülen. Shortly afterwards, he was charged with membership of the organisation and remanded in pre-trial detention.
Fethullah Gülen is a political organisation with very different views than Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Those views maybe contrary, but they are definitely not extreme. There’s no evidence that it has been involved in any terrorist activity.
What’s more the evidence that Taner Kiliç was a member of Fethullah Gülen is flimsy at best. 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 group) was discovered on his phone in August 2014. He denies having downloaded it.
Didn’t I hear he’d been released?
Well yes. On 31 January a court in Istanbul ruled that Taner should be released on bail. However in an unprecedented move by the judiciary, the prosecutor appealed the decision. The end result was another court ordered him to be detained once more. So with his wife and family waiting to greet him outside prison, he was taken again to a nearby police station pending the appeal outcome.
Amnesty International’s UK Section Director Kate Allen said:
“The decision to rearrest my colleague Taner is a complete disgrace.”
“The court yesterday released him on bail because there was no evidence produced against him. Yet his rearrest raises more questions for the Turkish authorities to answer.”
“It is not Taner that is on trial, it is the Turkish justice system.”
“We will stand alongside Taner and his family, and we will continue our work until this travesty is brought to an end.”
Taner Kiliç is a lawyer and human rights defender whose brave work threatens Turkey’s oppressive regime. He is being targeted because of his work as Chair of Amnesty International Turkey.
I am a former Board member of the Amnesty International UK Section, and at one time considered standing for the position of Chair. Although I never applied for the role, I am well aware of what it takes to fulfill such a position. I deeply respect the work of human rights organisations like Amnesty International, and completely understand how easy it would be to undermine their work by doing something like the Turkish authorities suggest.
The post of AI UK Chair is a fortunate position. The holder doesn’t live in a country where the fear of ISIS or a Kurdish independent state results in an oppressive judicial system carrying out the will from on high. They can go about their role without fear of arrest. In all my years of campaigning, the worst I’ve had is being filmed from inside the occasional embassy.
So please, do it! We can win this battle and get Taner back where he belongs; back with his family and protecting the rights of those who need them.