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Turkish Head Of Amnesty International Detained For Suspected Gulen Ties


Suspected supporters of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen are escorted by police as they arrive at a courthouse in Bursa in April.

Turkish authorities have detained the head of Amnesty International in Turkey for suspected links to the Muslim cleric who Ankara blames for last year's failed coup, the rights group said.

Police detained Taner Kilic and 22 other lawyers in the Aegean coastal province of Izmir on June 6 on suspicion of ties to the movement of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, the human rights group said.

Since the July 2016 coup attempt, authorities have arrested 50,000 people and fired or suspended 150,000, including soldiers, police, teachers, and public servants, over alleged links to the putsch.

"Taner Kilic has a long and distinguished record of defending exactly the kind of freedoms that the Turkish authorities are now intent on trampling," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty's secretary-general.

Turkish officials have defended the crackdown as necessary due to the gravity of the coup attempt, in which more than 240 people were killed.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, has denied involvement in the coup and condemned it.

Critics in Turkey and abroad say President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is using the coup as a pretext to muzzle dissent and purge opponents.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters
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