Ankara has arrested Amnesty International’s point man on Turkey on suspicion of links to the US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen blamed for the 2016 abortive coup.
Taner Kilic was detained along with 22 other lawyers in the western city of Izmir on Tuesday, all on similar charges, the UK-based rights group cited a detention order as saying.
“We are calling on the Turkish authorities to immediately release Taner Kilic along with the other 22 lawyers, and drop all charges against them,” said the Amnesty’s Secretary General Salil Shetty in reaction.
It is not yet clear whether the rest of the arrestees were Amnesty’s personnel.
Gulen used to be Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s mentor and ally before disagreements arose between them.
He has been in self-imposed exile in the United States for decades, and now the Erdogan government accuses him of having masterminded the failed July 2016 coup against Ankara.
“Taner Kilic has a long and distinguished record of defending exactly the kind of freedoms that the Turkish authorities are now intent on trampling,” Shetty added, and said the arrests proved how “arbitrary” Ankara’s post-coup crackdown had become.
Amnesty International and Reporters without Borders’ activists pose with portraits of Turkish journalists detained in Turkey, holding up banners in front of the Turkish Embassy in Berlin on May 3, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
He was referring to sweeping apprehensions countrywide in the aftermath of the putsch.
Around 47,000 people have been placed in detention and more than 100,000 public sector employees summarily dismissed since the coup attempt.
Amnesty has been critical of Turkey’s post-coup purge. It published a 21-page report on May 22, censuring Turkey over the dismissal of thousands of public employees in the wake of the abortive coup.
It said Ankara’s heavy-handed crackdown has had a “catastrophic impact” on the lives of opposition figures and dissidents.