President Erdogan keeps head of human rights group in prison, along with dozens of journalists & activists


(AFP) ISTANBUL: An Istanbul court on Thursday ruled to keep the chair of Amnesty International’s Turkey branch in jail after over one year behind bars on terror charges, in defiance of complaints by the rights group that the case has no foundation.

Taner Kilic has been held since June 2017 in the western city of Izmir, accused of links to US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen who Turkey says ordered the 2016 failed coup. Gulen denies the accusation.

Kilic is one of the dozens of journalists and rights activists caught up in the crackdown launched under a state of emergency after the coup, which critics say has netted not just the suspected plotters but also opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The court ruled “to keep our colleague Taner Kilic, who has already been unjustly imprisoned for one year, in jail,” Amnesty Turkey said in a statement.

“All evidence shows he is innocent… this injustice is unacceptable,” it added. The next hearing in the trial was set for November 7.

Kilic, who spoke to the court via video link from Izmir, was arrested on June 6, 2017, on what Amnesty describes as the “baseless charge” of belonging to a terrorist organization.

Authorities accused Kilic of having an encrypted messaging application on his phone in August 2014 called ByLock, which Ankara claims was specially created for Gulen supporters.

Amnesty has always rejected that Kilic had used Bylock on his phone and said even a report presented at the trial had acknowledged there was no evidence that he did so.

“We are all in a state of shock,” Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, who was present in court, wrote on Twitter after the ruling, describing it as a “sad commentary on the state of (Turkey’s) justice system.”

In a cruel twist, an Istanbul court earlier this year ordered his conditional release but then overturned its decision within 24 hours, and he has been in jail ever since.

If he is found guilty, he could face up to 15 years in jail.
Kilic is on trial with 10 other rights activists including Amnesty’s Turkey director Idil Eser, who were detained on terror charges after holding a workshop on an island off Istanbul.

The other 10 were all released last year, although they remain charged and on trial.

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