Taner Kılıç is a lawyer, a human rights defender, and the honorary president of Amnesty International Turkey. As a prominent figure in the human rights movement in Turkey, he works on refugee rights and is one of the first legal experts who has drawn attention to the conditions of refugees in Turkey. Kılıç is also a founder and the former chair of the Association for Solidarity with Refugees (Mülteci-Der).
He was released from jail after spending 15 months in pre-trial detention. He now stands trial in the Büyükada Case. On 9 June 2017, three days after he was taken into custody, Kılıç was charged with being a member of a terrorist organization. As a result, he was arrested and sent to jail. At the time of his arrest, he was the Chair of the Board of Amnesty International’s Turkey Branch. After his detention, in March 2018, he was nominated Honorary President of the Association.
Taner Kılıç has been charged with “membership to a terrorist organization” based on the allegation that he downloaded ByLock—a secure messaging application—and because he had opened an account in Bank Asya. He was accused of being affiliated with the Gülen Movement, which is held responsible for the 2016 coup attempt.
Two independent forensic examinations of his phone commissioned by Amnesty International found no trace of ByLock on his phone. So far, the prosecutor has not submitted any evidence to support the accusation.
On 26 October 2017, which is one month after his detention started and only one day after the release of 10 rights defenders whose meeting was raided by the police on 5 July 2017, Taner Kılıç had his first hearing. Here, the court decided to keep Taner Kılıç in detention and ordered to merge his case with that of the 10 rights defenders—also known as Istanbul 10. Later on, it was alleged that Kılıç was “aware” of the meeting in Büyükada that was raided, which is subject of a criminal investigation. Kılıç’s trial continued as part of the Büyükada case.
On 31 January 2018, the 11 rights defenders had their first hearing together. Even though the court decided to release Kılıç, a new arrest warrant was issued for him within 24 hours. Therefore, he was arrested again on 1 February 2018. Even though a report prepared by the Istanbul Police’s Anti-Cybercrimes Department confirmed that Kılıç had never downloaded ByLock on his phone, he was not released in the hearing held on 21 June 2018 either. This time, the court requested a new report on whether “he updated or reset his phone to factory settings.”
On 15 August 2018, during a monthly review of the case, the Court decided to release Kılıç from jail. Known for his civil society work and decades-long efforts on immigration and refugee rights, and as an active member of refugee rights commissions of bar associations in Turkey, Taner Kılıç is still on trial. Following his 15-month detention, Kılıç is still facing the risk of imprisonment. The 11 rights defenders, who are charged with "aiding an armed terrorist organizations" and "being members of an armed terrorist organization" due to their meeting titled "Digital Security and Protection of Human Rights Defenders," attended their last hearing on 16 July 2019.
The Presiding Judge announced that a new prosecutor was appointed. The newly appointed prosecutor requested additional time to draft the final opinion of the prosecution. At the hearing on 27th of November, the prosecutor announced his opinion on the merits and asked Taner Kılıç to be punished for "being member of an armed terrorist organization", meaning up to 15 years in prison.
At the 11th hearing on 19 February 2020, the defendants' arguments on the merits were heard. In his defense, Taner Kılıç said that contrary to what was alleged, he did not install ByLock on his phone and this was confirmed by the report issued by the police. The allegations, which were put forward, denied that BankAsya had deposited money after the leader of the organization's instructions and that the account movements were against the usual flow of life. "In this case, both us and our institutions were tried to be discredited and criminalized. We did not lose our respect despite the black propaganda against us," he said.
On 3 July 2020, the court sentenced Taner Kılıç to six years and three months in prison over “terrorist organization membership.” The 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice rejected the appeal of Taner Kılıç on 26 November 2020.
On May 31, 2022, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) announced its decision regarding Taner Kılıç's application for violation of rights. The ECtHR ruled that Kılıç's detention between 2017-2018 was a violation of his rights to freedom and security (Articles 5.1, 5.3 and 5.5 of the ECHR) and freedom of expression (Article 10). Following the verdict, Amnesty International called on Turkey to overturn the conviction of Taner Kılıç.
The 3rd Penal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals gave its decision on the appeals regarding the Büyükada case on October 17, 2022. The Supreme Court overturned the 6 years and 3 months prison sentence given to Taner Kılıç on the charge of "membership in a terrorist organization" due to "incomplete research".
At the first hearing on March 8, 2023, the court board announced its interim decision after announcing that it complied with the annulment decision. The delegation decided to continue the foreign travel ban on Kılıç and to investigate whether he used ByLock. As soon as the expert report on this issue came, it was decided to send the file to the opinion. The next hearing will be held on June 6, 2023.