Amnesty chair's 'absurd' trial symbolises Turkish law - Amnesty head

The “absurd” arrest and trial of Amnesty International’s honorary Turkey chair Taner Kılıç is “emblematic of the new wave of repression currently gripping Turkey,” Amnesty Secretary General Salil Shetty wrote for Time Magazine on Wednesday, a day before Kılıç is due to appear in court for the next hearing in his trial.

Kılıç was detained on Jun. 6, 2017, for alleged links to the Gülen movement, a religious organisation the Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP) government blames for planning the failed July 2016 coup attempt.

The charges against Kılıç were based on the supposed presence of ByLock, an app reportedly used by Gülenists to communicate, on his mobile phone. However, a recent police report confirmed the findings of four independent forensic reports which showed no signs of the app on his devices.

“The case against my colleague has always been absurd, but we won’t feel any comfort until Taner is actually free, given the present state of Turkey’s justice system, which seems to grow more arbitrary and capricious by the day,” said Shetty.

The crackdown under a state of emergency in place since shortly after the coup has seen 100,000 public service workers dismissed and 1,300 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and 180 media organizations shut down in a “sustained assault on civil society,” Shetty noted.

The closure of NGOs has had a knock-on effect, removing vital care from some of society’s most vulnerable people, he added.

With harsh restrictions strangling Turkey’s independent journalism, and driving people away from political activism, the country has a desperate need for people like Taner, said Shetty.

Kılıç has been released from prison once before since his arrest, spending the night in a detention facility after a court ordered his release. The prosecution’s appeal was accepted, however, and he was returned to his cell the next day.

Shetty expressed her hopes that this time the courts will finally release Kılıç and that she will not be forced to visit any more colleagues in Turkish prisons.

“If things don’t turn out this way, we at Amnesty International will double down on our efforts to see our colleague freed,” he said. “If we can show the courage and commitment that Taner himself would bring to a difficult case, then we’ll be on the right path."