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Amnesty International's Turkey Chief to be Held Pending Trial

  • Dorian Jones

FILE - Activists of Amnesty International stage a protest against the detention of the head of Amnesty International in Turkey, Taner Kilic, in front of the Turkish Embassy in Berlin on June 15, 2017.

An Istanbul court ruled Wednesday that Amnesty International's Turkey director should remain in jail. The anti-terror case includes 10 other human rights defenders and is drawing increasing international condemnation.

The decision by the Istanbul court to continue detaining Taner Kilic pending trial on charges of seeking to overthrow the government has drawn swift condemnation by human rights defenders. The case has become an international focal point of growing concern over the prosecution of human rights activists in Turkey.

Andrew Gardner, a Turkey researcher for Amnesty International, criticized the court's decision.

"Really this flies in the face of all reason. There is a wealth of evidence that he was innocent of all the charges," he said. "There was frankly nothing to suggest he was guilty. But despite this, he is again spending another night in a Turkish prison. He already has been detained for six months. The next hearing is going to be on 31st January, 2018. Really, it's a pretty desperate day for justice in Turkey."

Kilic also is accused of being linked to those involved in a failed coup last year. The Turkish Amnesty chief is only person currently being held in pre-trial detention after the other 10 human rights activists were released following a hearing last month.

Among those currently on trial are two foreign nationals and other leading members of Turkey’s civic society.

Addressing the court, Kilic said he was being held in an eight-person cell with more than 20 people.

The case has drawn international condemnation. Ahead of the Wednesday hearing, more than 70 leading musicians and artists from around the world called for his release in an open letter. Numerous international human rights groups and European parliamentarians attended the hearing.

Critics say the case is aimed at silencing human rights activists in Turkey. But the government has strongly defended the prosecution, saying the judiciary is independent and that the country is continuing to face an unprecedented threat after the failed military takeover.

A state of emergency remains in force and a crackdown continues against those accused of being involved in last year’s coup attempt, with more than 50,000 people being jailed.

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