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Turkey court keeps regional Amnesty chief behind bars

Ankara accuses Gulen of ordering last year's attempted overthrow of Erdogan [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 November, 2017

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Amnesty's Turkey chair Taner Kilic was detained in June on accusations of membership of the organisation led by the alleged mastermind of last year's failed coup, US-based Muslim cleric Gulen.

An Istanbul court ruled on Wednesday that the head of Amnesty International in Turkey should remain in prison, in a controversial case against human rights activists, the British campaigning group said.

Amnesty's Turkey chair Taner Kilic was detained in June on accusations of membership of the organisation led by the alleged mastermind of last year's failed coup, US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Amnesty said in a statement that Kilic, who has spent almost six months under arrest, was ordered in the latest trial hearing to remain in detention despite statements from lawyers and a witness who "demolished the prosecution's arguments".

"The court's decision to ignore this evidence and continue his detention flies in the face of reason. It is yet another opportunity missed to correct a gross injustice," said John Dalhuisen, director of Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia programme.

The next hearing has been set for January 31. Amnesty said Kilic told the court that he has been held with 23 other people in an eight-person cell.

His case was merged last month with those of 10 other rights activists including Amnesty's Turkey director Idil Eser, who were detained in July on contested terror charges after holding a workshop on an island off Istanbul.

Prosecutors accuse Kilic of having prior knowledge of preparations for the Istanbul workshop.

Eser, German activist Peter Steudtner, Swedish colleague Ali Gharavi and five others were freed last month for the duration of the trial where they are accused of "aiding" an armed terror group.

Two others had been released by the court previously, while Steudtner and Gharavi had already returned home. All remain charged and on trial.

The defendants are suspected of links to Gulen and other outlawed organisations including the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency in Turkey since 1984, and the far-left Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C).

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July said the activists had been taken into custody after a tip-off that they were working against the government, comparing them to those involved in the coup bid.

Ankara accuses Gulen of ordering last year's attempted overthrow of Erdogan but the preacher denies the charges.

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