Feb 06 2018

Free activist and end state of emergency, demands U.S. state dept

(Edited to add Nauert's comments, 20:20 06/02/18, Edited to add US senior official comments on the background, 00.30)

The U.S. State Department criticised Turkey for its treatment of the jailed Amnesty International Turkey Chairman Taner Kılıç and called for an end to the country’s protracted state of emergency at a press briefing on Tuesday.

Kılıç and 10 other human rights activists face charges for “membership of a terrorist organisation”, following a two-day rights workshop they held on the island of Büyükada, off Istanbul, in 2017. They were arrested during Turkey’s ongoing state of emergency, in place since shortly after the failed coup attempt in July 2016.

The chair of the Turkish branch of Amnesty International was re-arrested last week shortly after a court ordered his release pending trial.

The United States State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert issued a statement as the topper during the press briefing, saying "the United States is deeply troubled by the February 1 re-arrest by Turkish authorities of Kilic, who has been in pre-trial detention since June 2017." 

Nauert continued to say "we are closely following Mr. Kilic’s case, along with those against other respected human rights defenders, journalists, civil society leaders, and opposition politicians, whose ongoing prosecution under the state of emergency has chilled freedom of expression and raises serious concerns about respect for judicial independence and the due process protections enshrined in the Turkish constitution." 

The U.S. State Department also called on the Turkish government “to take concrete steps to end the protracted state of emergency and safeguard the rule of law, consistent with Turkey’s own domestic and international obligations and commitments."

Nauert did not confirm whether U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson planned to visit Turkey, however she affirmed that if he were to go, he would voice similar concerns with regards to the human rights conditions and arrests in Turkey.

Senior US official on the background told a group of journalists that ''things are at a tough point with Turkey right now, but the Secretary had series of conversations with Turkish counterparts to express these concerns'' when asked about the deteriorating relationship with Turkey.