TURKEY: Taner Kiliç, lawyer and former president of amnesty international Turkey sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison
Taner Kiliç is a Turkish human rights lawyer and member of several human rights organizations. He is the former president and co-founder of the Turkish section of Amnesty International. He was also from 2008 to 2014 the president of the NGO Association for Solidarity with Refugees (in Turkish, Mültecilerle Dayanışma Derneği).
On July 3rd, 2020, Taner Kiliç was sentenced to 6 years and 3 months imprisonment for “membership of a terrorist organization” in the Büyükada Trial. Alongside him, ten other human rights defenders were accused, three were also convicted. Günal Kurşun (member of Amnesty International Turkey and employee of Human Rights Agenda Association), Idil Eser (former director of Amnesty International Turkey) and Özlem Dalkiran (active member of Citizens’ Assembly and founding member of Amnesty International Turkey) were each sentenced to two years and one month in prison for “assistance to a terrorist organisation”.
In a press release, Amnesty International condemned the decision as a “crushing blow for human rights and for justice”. On the eve of the hearing, the European Parliament’s standing rapporteur for Turkey and the Chair of the Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee said: “ The final hearing and sentence tomorrow of the emblematic ‘Büyükada case’ represents a decisive opportunity to clarify if Turkey abides by its international commitments and standards or if the country further moves apart from them.”.
Taner Kiliç was arrested on June 6th, 2017 on suspicion of involvement in the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. Awaiting the verdict, French Human Rights Ambassador François Croquette and his German counterpart said, “The controversial trial against Taner Kilic and the Istanbul 10 is a clear illustration of the pressure currently being put on Turkish civil society. […] Legitimate commitment to human rights should never be considered a crime! ” According to the authorities, the lawyer is said to have downloaded a secure messaging application called ByLock. This messaging application is linked to Fethullah Gülen’s movement allegedly behind the coup. On 15 August 2018, Taner Kiliç was finally released pending trial.
After attending the hearing as an observer, Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey, said: “Today, we have borne witness to a travesty of justice of spectacular proportions”. He added: “The court’s verdict defies logic and exposes this three-year trial as the politically motivated attempt to silence independent voices”.
There was no committal order for Taner Kiliç, who has already spent 14 months in detention. None of them will be detained pending the outcome of the appeal, which may take years.
The OIAD strongly deplores the Turkish authorities’ criminalization of any human rights action.
The OIAD expresses its deep indignation at this decision against a man who has dedicated his life and profession to the strengthening of human rights in Turkey.
The OIAD would like to remind the Turkish authorities that under the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990) :
“Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization. In exercising these rights, lawyers shall always conduct themselves in accordance with the law and the recognized standards and ethics of the legal profession” (Principle 23).