News ID: 209229
Published: 0508 GMT February 01, 2018

Turkish court rules local Amnesty chairman to remain in prison

Turkish court rules local Amnesty chairman to remain in prison

A Turkish court has scrapped its decision to release Taner Kilic, the chairman of Amnesty International in Turkey, and ordered him to remain behind bars as his trial continues over terror charges, the international rights group says.

“The Istanbul trial court has now overturned its own release verdict it made yesterday. Taner will stay in pre-trial detention. What (or who) made them do it?” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty’s senior adviser and researcher in Turkey, on his Twitter account on Thursday, shortly after the court issued its ruling.

“This is devastating for Taner’s family and a disgrace to justice,” he added.

Detained in the western city of Izmir in June last year, Kilic has been accused of having links to the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey says orchestrated the mid-July 2016 coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey also accuses Gulen of being behind a long-running campaign to topple the government via infiltrating the country’s institutions, particularly the army, police and the judiciary. 

Gulen and his followers strongly deny any connection to the botched putsch. However, the Ankara government has outlawed Gulen’s movement and branded it as the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), alleging that Kilic has been one of its members.

London-based Amnesty has already denounced the allegations as a “travesty of justice,” describing them as “baseless.”

According to Gardner, during a hearing on Wednesday, the court in Istanbul ordered release of Kilic from a prison in western Izmir province on judicial control. However, a prosecutor appealed against the decision and a second court accepted it. On Thursday, the first court reversed its decision and agreed to the continued detention of Taner.

“This is the latest example of the crisis in Turkey's justice system that is ruining lives and hollowing out the right to a fair trial,” Amnesty's Secretary General Salil Shetty said in a statement.

“To have been granted release only to have the door to freedom so callously slammed in his face is devastating for Taner, his family and all who stand for justice in Turkey,” he added.

Kilic is on trial with 10 other rights activists, including Amnesty's Turkey director Idil Eser, German activist Peter Steudtner and Swedish colleague Ali Gharavi. The other 10 were all released last year though their trial continues. The activists are accused of “aiding armed terrorist organizations” through civil society actions in the Anatolian country. The next hearing for them has been set for June 21, Amnesty said.

Since the failed coup, Turkey has arrested more than 50,000, including foreign nationals. More than 150,000 people have also been suspended or sacked from their jobs over alleged links to coup plotters.

Turkey, which remains in a state of emergency since the coup, has been engaged in suppressing the media and opposition groups suspected to have played a role in the attempted coup.

The international community and rights groups have been highly critical of the Turkish president over the massive dismissals and the crackdown.

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