Amnesty’s Turkish Chair On Trial In Post-Coup Crackdown-Over Allegations He Downloaded ByLock App

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Amnesty’s Turkish Chair On Trial In Post-Coup Crackdown-Over Allegations He Downloaded ByLock App

By Lee Munson

It has been reported that the chair of Amnesty International in Turkey and 10 other Amnesty activists have gone on trial in Istanbul in one of the most high-profile tests of Turkish criminal law since the failed coup in 2016 led to tens of thousands of arrests and dismissals from public office. Taner Kılıç, chair of Amnesty in Turkey since 2014, is on trial on two separate charges, largely on the basis of allegations that he downloaded a widely available phone messaging application called ByLock.

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Tens of thousands of people have been arrested or dismissed from officein a wide-ranging crackdown since the coup

Charity’s Europe director says prosecutions aimed at silencing critical voices within Turkey since last year’s failed coup.

Eleven human rights activists including two senior Amnesty International employees have gone on trial in Istanbul on terrorism charges, in one of the most high-profile tests of Turkish criminal law since a failed coup in 2016.


Ten of the activists, including Amnesty’s Turkey director, İdil Eser, were arrested while attending a digital security training workshop in July.

They are accused of plotting an uprising and charged with aiding militants as well as the movement led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, blamed for the coup attempt. They face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.

Amnesty’s Turkey chairman, Taner Kılıç, who was imprisoned separately in June, appeared in court via video link from a prison in İzmir, western Turkey.

He will also appear at a hearing in İzmir on Thursday on a separate charge of being a member of a Gülen-linked organisation. Kılıç is accused of using Bylock, an encrypted mobile messaging app that the Turkish prosecuting authorities claim was used by Gülen supporters to communicate secretly before the coup attempt.

Tens of thousands of people have been arrested or dismissed from office in a wide-ranging crackdown since the coup, prompting criticism that the country has taken an increasingly authoritarian turn under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Dozens of people protested outside the crowded courthouse in Istanbul’s justice palace as the trial opened, holding banners bearing images of the activists and the hashtag “FreeRightsDefenders”.

“I have dedicated my life to truth and justice and that is all I ask of this court,” said Özlem Dalkıran, a pro-democracy campaigner and one of the defendant, during opening statements to the court.

John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe director, said the prosecutions were aimed at silencing critical voices within Turkey.

“Without substance or foundation the Turkish authorities have tried and failed to build a case against İdil, Taner and the other nine human rights activists,” said Dalhuisen, who is attending the trial. “It took the prosecutor more than three months to come up with nothing. It should not take the judge more than half an hour to dismiss the case against them.”

The charges relate to a digital security and stress training workshop Amnesty held in a hotel outside Istanbul that the prosecuting authorities claim was a secret meeting to organise an uprising, or even conduct espionage. Most of the 10 Amnesty supporters present at the meeting have been held in jail since their arrest on 18 July. Kılıç did not attend the workshop, because he was in prison after being arrested the previous month. He is accused of knowing it was going ahead.

In a witness statement Kılıç said he had not even heard of the Bylock app until after the coup. The Turkish prosecution case states records in its file show his phone number downloaded the app in August 2014.
Turkish police escort people arrested for alleged links with the cleric Fethullah Gülen
Police escort people arrested for alleged links with the cleric Fethullah Gülen. More than 100,000 Turks have been detained or sacked in the crackdown. Photograph: Olcay Düzgün/AFP/Getty Images

Amnesty says it has conducted two forensic examinations of Kılıç’s phone, including one by the international technology firm SecureWorks, and found no trace of the ByLock app on the phone. Such an investigation could not be totally conclusive, but security experts say it would take “a highly skilled technical operator” to remove all trace of the app from the phone.

Amnesty has also pointed out that downloading ByLock should not of itself be a crime since the app had been downloaded more than 600,000 times throughout the world between April 2102 and April 2016.

But in a landmark case the Turkish supreme court in September ruled that the app was redesigned exclusively for the use of Gülenist members, and was therefore sufficient grounds to find someone guilty of being member of a terrorist organisation.

Turkish intelligence claims to have identified via IP addresses nearly 100,000 Turks who may have communicated with the ByLock server. But Amnesty argues that an IP address is not linked to a single individual, and cannot be used as the basis for charging anyone.

Kılıç is also accused of having a bank account with Bank Asya not for his own benefit, implying that he put money into the Gülen-linked bank on behalf of the Gülenist movement.

Kılıç, a respected lawyer specialising in refugee work, said tens of thousands of people have Asya bank accounts and that he used the account to help pay for the schooling of his daughter. He has also been accused of being linked via his brother-in-law with the Gülenist newspaper Zaman.

The Istanbul trial is one of several cases that have deepened a rift between Turkey and European nations, notably Germany, which considers one of the defendants, German national Peter Steudtner, as well as 10 other German or German-Turkish citizens jailed in Turkey, to be political prisoners.


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[OPINION] Erdoğan’s terrorists in Turkey

by Abdullah Bozkurt

The Turkish government under autocratic president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s perpetual emergency rule last week expanded its definition of terrorism by calling the main opposition Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) “accomplices of terror” and “pawns of foreign powers.”

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Judges were expelled over bylock decisions

Five judiciary members, who were expelled from their posts due to their use of a smart phone application known as ByLock by the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), have been reinstated to their posts by the HSYK, according to a story in the Hürriyet daily on Friday.

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Sad Story of Independence and Objectivity of the 16th Penal Chamber of the Court of Cassation

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.”

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Being arrested for using encryption like being arrested for locking your front door or owning a safe.

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.

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The legal opinion submitted by W. Clegg QC & S.Baker That ByLock Arrests Are Farce that ByLock Arrests Are Farce

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.

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An article via Justice at Swiss Supreme Court Thomas Stadelmann about @BylockReality

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.

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“Use of ByLock was also the sole reason the Turkish police gave for the arrest of Amnesty’s Chair, T.Kılıç”

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.

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