Amnesty urges releases of its Turkey head after year in jail

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Istanbul, Jun 6 : Amnesty International today vowed to intensify efforts to win the release of its Turkey chairman who has spent a year in jail on “baseless” charges of links to the group blamed for a failed July 2016 coup.

Taner Kilic has been held since June 2017 in the western city of Izmir, accused of links to US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen who Turkey says ordered the coup. Gulen denies the accusation.

Kilic is one of dozens of journalists and rights activists caught up in the crackdown launched under a state of emergency after the coup, which critics say has netted not just the suspected plotters but also opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Today we mourn the year of Taner Kilic’s life that Turkey’s government has unjustly taken from him,” Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary general, said in a statement.

“But this is also a moment to redouble our efforts to secure his release and that of many other civil society activists whose work has cost them their freedom,” Shetty added.

Kilic was arrested on 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.

His detention “is a gross injustice that exposes Turkey’s flawed justice system and the government’s cold-blooded pursuit of anyone deemed to oppose them,” Shetty said.

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.

His next hearing is set for June 21. 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 though their trial continues. They will also appear in court on June 21.

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