Middle East

US 'deeply concerned' after Turkey arrests Amnesty International official

The Trump administration criticized the Turkish government Wednesday after police in that country detained a prominent human rights lawyer as part of a crackdown on people suspected of links to a U.S.-based cleric accused of masterminding a failed coup.

State Department spokesman Heather Nauert said the U.S. was "deeply concerned" by the arrest of Taner Kilic in at his home in the western Turkish city of Izmir along with 22 other attorneys. Kilic served as the Turkey chairman of Amnesty International, which claimed that his home and office were searched. 

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"These detentions, often with little evidence or transparency, are an alarming trend," Nauert said in a statement, later adding "As we have expressed to the Turkish government on numerous occasions, persistent curbs on free speech and other freedoms erode the foundations of democratic society."

Turkish authorities had no immediate comment on the case. 

Turkey has launched a widespread crackdown on Fethullah Gulen's followers since the July 15, 2016, coup attempt, arresting some 50,000 people and purging tens of thousands of others from government jobs. Critics say the government is using a state of emergency declared after the attempted coup to clamp down on all opponents.

Amnesty Secretary General Salil Shetty said the lawyers' detention was proof of "how arbitrary" Turkey's crackdown on the Gulen movement has become.

"In the absence of credible and admissible evidence of their involvement in internationally recognized crimes, we are calling on the Turkish authorities to immediately release Taner Kilic along with the other 22 lawyers," said Shetty.

Earlier Wednesday, Turkey rebuffed a U.S. House of Representatives resolution that condemned attacks against protesters in Washington by bodyguards who were traveling with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

U.S. lawmakers voted 397-0 Tuesday to pass the measure, calling for members of Erdogan's security involved in last month's incident to be brought to justice.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu said in a statement that the bipartisan resolution was "against the spirit of alliance and partnership" between Turkey and the United States.

Turkey has not apologized for the incident and instead protested what it said was "aggressive and unprofessional actions" by American security personnel against Turkish bodyguards.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.