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Amnesty’s Kilic to Remain Behind Bars in Turkey

Human rights activists stage a protest outside a court where eleven human rights activists, among them Amnesty International's Turkey chairman Taner Kilic, are on trial, accused of belonging to and aiding terror groups, in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 25, 2017.

Amnesty International’s country chairman in Turkey is to remain in custody on terrorism charges related to the use of a phone app, the human rights group said.

Amnesty announced the Turkish court’s decision to keep chairman Taner Kilic behind bars in its Twitter feed, saying it “won’t stop until he is free.”

Kilic has been in prison for five months, facing up to 15 years in prison for downloading ByLock, a popular encrypted messaging app.

Turkish authorities say the messaging app is used by supporters of Fetullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric whom Turkey blames for a failed coup attempt last summer. Gulen repeatedly has denied any involvement in the coup plot, though Ankara maintains he masterminded the unsuccessful overthrow.

Turkey’s Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that simply downloading the messaging app to one’s phone was evidence a person belonged to a terrorist group.

Kilic is on trial with 10 of his colleagues from Amnesty’s Turkish division. The charges relate to a digital security workshop organized by the group.

Amnesty’s European director, John Dalhuisen, called the trial “an acid test for the Turkish justice system” and said it will demonstrate whether human rights activism “has now become a crime in Turkey.”

“From the moment of their detentions, it has been clear that these are politically motivated prosecutions aimed at silencing critical voices within Turkey,” he said in a statement.