In reversal, Turkish court rules to keep Amnesty head in jail | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 01.02.2018
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In reversal, Turkish court rules to keep Amnesty head in jail

A Turkish court changed its own decision to release Amnesty International Turkey head Taner Kilic pending his trial. Kilic and 10 others maintain their innocence in the face of terrorism-related charges.

An Istanbul court on Thursday overturned its own decision to release Taner Kilic, Amnesty International's Turkey chairman, in what the rights group called a "travesty of justice of spectacular proportions."

"The Istanbul trial court has now overturned its own release verdict it made yesterday. Taner will stay in pre-trial detention. What (or who) made them do it? This is devastating for Taner's family and a disgrace to justice," said Turkey's Amnesty researcher Andrew Garnder.

Istanbul's 35th High Criminal Court on Wednesday had ordered the pre-trial release of Kilic, who has been in prison since June on terrorism-related charges. Hours later a prosecutor appealed his release and another court ordered Kilic to be detained.

The 35th High Criminal Court then overturned its own decision.

'Unusual legal maneuvers'

Kati Piri, the European Parliament's Turkey rapporteur, called for Kilic's immediate release.

"We're witnessing unusual legal maneuvers which are a reflection of the current dire state of the Turkish judicial system, as well as the erosion of the rule of law," she said in a statement.

The French Foreign Ministry also said it was deeply concerned.

"We again call on Turkey to respect its European and international commitments on human rights and fundamental freedoms," a French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said in a statement.

Targeting human rights defenders

Kilic is on trial with 10 other human rights activists, including Amnesty's Turkey director Idil Eser, German activist Peter Steudtner and Swedish colleague Ali Gharavi.

All 10 were released last year pending trial, which is scheduled for June 21.

Read more: Peter Steudtner: Detained activists in Turkey face 'unfair' judicial system

The rights activists are accused of membership in terrorist organizations, including the Gulen movement that Ankara blames for the July 2016 failed coup attempt, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and far-left Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C).

Among the charges, Kilic is accused of downloading the ByLock messaging app.

Turkish authorities said the encrypted messaging app was used by supporters of US -based cleric Fethullah Gulen to carry out the coup attempt. Gulen denies any role in the coup.

Kilic denies he ever used the messaging app.

Amnesty said two independent forensic analyses they showed the courts found no evidence ByLock was installed on Kilic's phone.

Turkish prosecutors said last year that some 11,000 people may have been wrongly dismissed from their jobs or arrested on ByLock related charges. 

Nearly 50,000 people have been arrested and at least 150,000 dismissed from their jobs on suspicion of being supporters of the Gulen movement or participation in the coup attempt.

cw/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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