Amnesty International’s director in Turkey, Taner Kilic, was among 23 lawyers arrested in the western city of Izmir. They are suspected of having ties to the US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Türkei Großer Basar in Istanbul Polizei (picture-alliance/dpa/D. Toprak)

Taner Kilic, the chair of Amnesty International in Turkey , was arrested on Tuesday along with 22 other lawyers, the human rights organization has reported. They have all been accused of links to the network of the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Kilic was detained by police at his home in Izmir early on Tuesday before being taken to his office, Amnesty announced.

“We are calling on the Turkish authorities to immediately release Taner Kilic along with the other 22 lawyers and drop all charges against them,” Amnesty Secretary-General Salil Shetty said.

Chair of @Amnesty Turkey office among 23 lawyers detained today in post-coup purge. We demand their urgent release! 

“Taner Kilic has a long and distinguished record of defending exactly the kind of freedoms that the Turkish authorities are now intent on trampling,” Shetty said.

Amnesty reported that there was no reason to believe that Kilic’s arrest was connected to his work for the London-based rights group. He has been the local director in Turkey since 2014.

The Turkish government claims that Gulen ordered a coup attempt last July, but the cleric denies the accusation.

Since July, authorities have arrested 50,000 people and sacked or suspended 150,000 government employees – including soldiers, police, teachers and public servants – for alleged links to Gulen’s network and other groups.

es/jm (Reuters, AFP)