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Amnesty's Turkey chair to remain behind bars: court

Activists stage a protest outside the Turkish embassy in Berlin [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 June, 2018

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Taner Kilic has become a powerful symbol of human rights activists and dissenters targeted by Turkish authorities as part of a years-long crackdown.
The chair of Amnesty International's Turkey office will remain in jail on terror charges, an Istanbul court ruled on Thursday, despite complaints from rights groups the case has no basis.

Taner Kilic has been behind bars since June 2017 in the western city of Izmir, accused of links to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who Turkey says is behind the June 2016 coup attempt. 

Kilic is one of dozens of journalists and rights activists caught up in a crackdown launched after the failed coup attempt, which critics say President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has used to target dissent. 

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 7 November.

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

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

A second police report was submitted to the court on Thursday over the question of ByLock. The one-page text said there was no evidence the application was installed on Kilic's mobile phone. 

"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.

Turkey is holding snap presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 June, with Erdogan seeking a new term as Turkey transitions to an executive presidency. 

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