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Turkish Amnesty head's detention ruled unlawful

May 31, 2022

Human rights defenders won the case, and Turkey was asked to pay costs and damages for detaining the head of Amnesty International's chapter in the country.

Human rights activist Taner Kilic in front of an Amnesty International logo.
Taner Kilic was arrested in 2017 on suspicion of links with a Turkish dissidentImage: Ozan Kose/AFP

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Turkey acted unlawfully in detaining the local head of the human rights group Amnesty International in 2017.

The court found no evidence that Taner Kilic had committed any offense.

Why was Kilic detained?

Authorities had detained Kilic in June 2017, charging him with having links to the US-based preacher and Turkish dissident Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey says staged a 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government.

He was released after 14 months in detention, but in July 2020 was convicted of belonging to a terror group and given six years and three months in prison.

The ECHR now says that the original detention took place even though there was "no reasonable suspicion that Mr Kilic had committed an offense."

The court also ruled that his subsequent conviction on other charges was "directly linked to his activity as a human rights defender," and interfered with his freedom of expression.

Can Dundar: No faith in Turkish judiciary

Seven judges, including Saadet Yuksel from Turkey, unanimously ruled in Kilic's favor.

Turkey had accused him of belonging to the group due to his alleged use of a phone messaging app, his children's schooling, newspaper subscriptions and the fact that he held accounts in a bank linked to the Gulen movement.

What did the court rule?

"This long-awaited European Court ruling confirms what we have known from the start — that Taner Kilic was arbitrarily deprived of his liberty when jailed in a high security prison on trumped-up charges," said Amnesty International's Europe director, Nils Muiznieks.

Kilic is not currently in prison and has appealed the verdict, but Muiznieks says he could go back to jail if Turkey's Court of Cassation does not uphold his appeal.

Turkey was ordered to pay $26,300 (€24,500) in damages and $10,735 (€10,000) in costs.

The ECHR has recently ruled against Turkey over the detention of Selahattin Demirtas, an opposition leader, and Osman Kavala, a philanthropist and activist.

Demirtas has been in prison since 2016 on several charges, while Kavala was given life without parole for involvement in protests in 2013.

er/nm (AFP, Reuters)

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