Taner Kılıç, the Honorary Chair of Amnesty International Turkey, who was released yesterday after more than fourteen months behind bars, has thanked his supporters and said he hopes the campaign for his release helps to highlight the situation facing other victims of politically motivated prosecutions in Turkey.
Taner, whose trial will resume on November 7, was reunited with his family late yesterday after being released by a court in Istanbul.
“I think the campaign for my release has helped to shine a light on all those people who have been the victims of politically motivated, unfair prosecutions in Turkey,” said Taner Kılıç.
“I hope that justice will prevail and that everyone will be given a fair trial.”
Taner was arrested in June 2017 on baseless charges of “membership of a terrorist organization”. He was accused of using an encrypted messaging app called ByLock, which the Turkish government said was used by members of the banned Fetullah Gülen group. Two police reports and four independent forensic analyses found no trace of ByLock on his phone.
“Despite the fact that there was not a single reason for my imprisonment, I was jailed for more than 14 months. I was jailed despite the fact that I did not use ByLock. I hope it was not for nothing, that the awareness generated around the world will help others face fair trials in Turkey,” said Taner.
He also expressed his thanks for the international solidarity shown towards him.
“To everyone who sent me countless letters from around the world – cards from Canada to Japan, from Norway to Benin – I want to express my deep gratitude,” Taner said.
“While in prison, these actions lifted my spirit and reminded me of the importance of international solidarity in the struggle for human rights.”
“Fourteen months behind bars feels like a very long time. I am still feeling a little stunned. I think it will take me some time to process it, but this is the best Eid celebration we could have hoped for.”
Taner Kılıç, was detained on June 6, 2017 and sent to prison three days later. Ten other activists (known as the Istanbul 10), including İdil Eser, the Director of Amnesty International Turkey, were detained a month later while attending a human rights workshop. Eight of them were held for almost four months before being released on bail in October.
They are all accused of “membership of a terrorist organization”, a baseless allegation for which the prosecution has yet to provide any evidence that would stand up to scrutiny.
Last December, Turkish authorities admitted that thousands of people have been wrongly accused of downloading ByLock. They published lists containing the numbers of 11,480 mobile phone users, leading to mass releases. Taner Kılıç was not on the list. Experts believe a much higher number of people were wrongly accused of downloading and using the messaging app.
More than one million people have signed Amnesty International appeals demanding the release of Taner Kılıç and the other human rights defenders since their arrest last summer. Scores of well-known figures, including including Ai WeiWei, Peter Gabriel and Catherine Deneuve have called for the release of Taner and the dropping have called for the release of Taner and the dropping of charges against the Istanbul 10.