The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday condemned Turkey over the 2017 arrest of the head of the country’s Amnesty International branch, ruling that his detention was unlawful, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.
Taner Kılıç was imprisoned for 14 months following his arrest in June 2017 on charges of membership in a group Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.
There were no reasonable grounds of suspicion to warrant Kılıç’s detention, the ECHR ruled on Tuesday, saying the imprisonment was “unlawful and arbitrary”.
Moreover, Kılıç’s incarceration on a second set of terrorism-related charges was “directly linked to his activity as a human rights defender” and therefore interfered with his freedom of expression, it said.
The current Amnesty International Turkey honorary chair was released in August 2018, and convicted to over six years in prison in July 2020 over membership in a terrorist organisation. Kılıç, who remains free, has appealed the verdict.
The ECHR has ordered Turkey to pay 24,500 euros ($26,300) in damages and 10,000 euros ($10,735) in costs by the court, according to Deutsche Welle.
Kılıç was accused of membership in the Gülen movement, a religious group labelled as a terrorist organisation by Ankara that is led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen. Gülen denies any links to the failed coup.
The Amnesty International official was accused of belonging to the group due to his alleged use of a phone app as well as other alleged links, such as newspaper subscriptions, his children’s schooling and holding accounts in a bank linked to the religious group.
Turkey has dismissed or suspended more than 125,000 civil servants from public office, arrested more than 96,000 citizens and closed more than 1,500 NGOs over alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed putsch, according to a December U.S. state department report.