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Friday 20 September 2019

Court rules Amnesty's Turkey chief to remain jailed

Ali Gharavi and Peter Steudtner after their release from Silivri prison outside Istanbul (AP)
Ali Gharavi and Peter Steudtner after their release from Silivri prison outside Istanbul (AP)

A Turkish court has ruled that Amnesty International's Turkey chairman Taner Kilic remains jailed pending a verdict in his trial a day after a separate court released eight other human rights activists on bail, the rights organisation said.

Taner Kilic was held in jail in June, accused of links to cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey says orchestrated last year's failed coup attempt.

Mr Kilic is accused of using an encrypted mobile messaging application allegedly employed by Mr Gulen's network. The cleric himself has denied masterminding the coup attempt.

Mr Kilic was being tried separately from a group of other activists detained in a police raid in July while attending a training workshop on digital security. They were charged with belonging to terror organisations and abetting them.

The activists, including Amnesty International Turkey director Idil Eser, German citizen Peter Steudtner and Swede Ali Gharavi, were freed late on Thursday by a court in Istanbul pending the outcome of the trial.

"Over the last 24 hours we have seen the twin hands of Turkey's fickle justice system at play," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's secretary general, expressing disappointment over the decision to remand Mr Kilic in custody.

"While one grants liberty, the other, confronted with no less baseless charges, takes it away."

Amnesty denies that Mr Kilic downloaded and used the ByLock messaging application, which Turkish authorities say was used by the Gulen movement.

"Two independent forensic analyses of Taner's phone commissioned by Amnesty International found that there is no trace of ByLock having been on his phone," the group said.

In Berlin, German officials hailed the Istanbul court's decision to free Mr Steudtner and seven other activists, saying it could spark better relations between Germany and Turkey.

Justice minister Heiko Maas said Mr Steudtner's release was an "encouraging sign", but he added: "The remaining German citizens who are in custody without justification or charges must be set free."

Several other Germans were arrested after the failed coup in Turkey, including journalist Deniz Yucel.

Foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said Germany would continue fighting for all to be freed, but called Mr Steudtner's release "a first sign" that relations were improving.

He told Der Spiegel magazine that former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder helped negotiate Mr Steudtner's release.


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