Taner Kılıç, a lawyer and the chairman of Amnesty International Turkey’s board, were arrested by an İstanbul court on Friday as part of an investigation into Turkey’s Gülen group.
According to a tweet posted by Gauri Van Gulik, deputy Europe Director at Amnesty International, Kılıç has been “charged and remanded in pre-trial detention.”
Kılıç is a founding member of AI Turkey and has been chairman of its board of directors since 2014. He has also played a strong role in advocating for refugee rights as a lawyer and with domestic nongovernmental groups and others working on these issues.
He is accused of using a smartphone application called “ByLock.”
ByLock is considered by Turkish authorities to be the top communication tool among followers of the Gülen group, which is accused by the government of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen group.
The group denies any involvement.
Tens of thousands of civil servants, police officers and businessmen have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since a failed coup attempt last July.
The anti-terror unit of the Izmir police on Tuesday detained lawyer and human rights defender Kılıç together with 22 other attorneys as part of an operation targeting people linked to the Gülen group.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday called on Turkish authorities to immediately release of Kılıç.
“Turkey should release Taner Kılıç, who is a tireless defender of human rights, known for his support for Amnesty International over many years,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“Detaining Kılıç on suspicion of terrorist offenses looks like a tactic aimed at discrediting his legitimate human rights work.”
The European Union on Thursday expressed concern about the recent detention of Taner Kılıç.
“We call on the Turkish authorities to clarify the charges swiftly, in line with the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights,” the spokesperson for European Union External Action (EEAS) said in a statement published on their website.
In a similar statement on Wednesday, US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said: “The United States is deeply concerned by the recent detention of Taner Kiliç, Chair of Amnesty International Turkey — the latest in a series of respected human rights defenders, journalists, academics, and activists detained in Turkey.”