JUNE 2016–MAY 2017
- After protests erupted over the removal from office of 28 mayors in the Kurdish-majority southeast, authorities restricted internet access for approximately 12 million residents in the region (see Restrictions on Connectivity).
It has often been stated in the articles written so far that there has not been a court verdict acknowledging the existence of a terrorist organization called “FETO/PDY”. Nothing has changed in this regard even though it has been over a year since the attempted coup of July 15. Some of the readers could say, “There are a lot of court decisions about this issue. There is a recent verdict and decision of approval given by the 16th Penal Chamber of the Court of Cassation about the attempted coup.”
This piece was written by PI Policy Officer Lucy Purdon.
The repercussions from the failed military coup in Turkey on 15 July 2016 have impacted almost every part of Turkish society as President Erdoğan clamps down on perceived and actual opposition in a never ending cycle of raids, arrests and detentions.
The legal opinion submitted by By William Clegg QC & Simon Baker on 25th July 2017 coupled with a Technical Report on the use of Bylock App prepared by Thomas K. Moore sheds new light into the catastrophic scale of crackdown and arbitrary detentions in Turkey in the aftermath of the attempted coup in July 2016. The opinion clearly scraps the use of Bylock App as evidence of membership of a terrorist organisation and underlines some of the most flagrant human rights violations such as right to freedom and security, right to a fair trial and prohibition of retrospective criminality. The following is a summary of the most salient aspects of the 54-page long opinion consisting of a section on legal opinion and a technical analysis on the reliance on use of Bylock App as evidence.
COULD IT BE A CRIME TO USE BYLOCK?
Turkish judicial and administrative authorities have been trying to establish a perception through ByLock which is an encrypted messaging application for smart phone, and can be downloaded in google play and used to be downloaded in apple store as well. Although Bylock, which is a legal app, can be downloaded via apple store and google play, they reflects it as an illegal application in order to strengthen their thesis and their claims. From their perspective using or downloading ByLock is considered a crime which means a member of armed terrorist organization behind the attempted coup and so it was accepted and applied as the most important evidence of membership of terrorist organization.
The detention of a group of human rights defenders in Turkey for daring to learn about digital security and encryption continued last week with a brief appearance of the accused in an Istanbul court. Six were returned to jail, and four released on bail. In an additionally absurd twist, the four released activists were named in new detention orders on Friday, and are now being re-arrested.
In Turkey, we encounter many unreasonable, illegal and ambiguous judicial acts in recent years as a part of autocratic drift. These judicial practices inexplicable within fundamental legal principles have been very often after the 15 July 2016 coup attempt. One of these famous irrational judicial acts is detention of people based on allegedly using the ByLock smartphone application.
A summary of an opinion on the legality of the actions of the Turkish State in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt in 2016 and the reliance on use of the Bylock messaging application as evidence of membership of a terrorist organisation by William Clegg QC who was assisted by Simon Baker. The opinion also contains a digital forensic report by Thomas K Moore, whose main findings have also been summarised below.
Summary of Opinion by William Clegg QC and Simon Baker
Thousands in Turkey were sent to jails for downloading messaging app ByLock.
Just imagine the police storm your house, put you in a police van and drive away. For days, you remain under custody. You would be lucky if you’re fed, allowed to sleep or at least not tortured. In about 10 days, you are brought before a judge who asks you about an iPhone app called Telegram that you downloaded 2 years ago. Before even you have a chance to ask how come the judge could even know what you installed on your iPhone 2 years ago, he seals your fate. “Because ISIS militants use Telegram to communicate among themselves, you are most likely part of that terrorist group,” the court decision says to justify the arrest. You are probably sitting in a jail for several months now, with no idea when you may be released.