Turkish court releases jailed chair of Amnesty International Turkey

Jan. 31 (UPI) — A court in Istanbul on Wednesday ordered the release on bail of Taner Kilic, chairman of human rights group Amnesty International‘s Turkey operation.

Kilic, jailed since June, is accused of being a member of a terrorist organization, an accusation the London-based group described as “baseless allegation for which the prosecution has yet to provide any concrete evidence that would stand up to scrutiny.”

After Kilic’s detention, 10 other activists known as “the Istanbul 10,” including Amnesty International Turkey Director Idil Eser, were arrested. Eight of them were held for almost four months before being released on bail at their first hearing in October.

Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s Europe Director, celebrated Kilic’s release, but said the organization’s ultimate goal is to make sure charges are dropped against the chairman, the Istanbul 10, “and all other innocent victims wrongfully caught up in this vicious crackdown.”

“It is an enormous relief that Taner will soon be back with his wife and daughters, sleeping in his own bed for the first time in almost eight months. But we cannot forget that many other innocent people remain behind bars without a shred of evidence in Turkey,” van Gulik said. “These unfounded prosecutions are an attempt to silence critical voices within Turkey but have only served to highlight the importance of human rights and those who dedicate their lives to defending them.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has overseen a harsh crackdown against dissidents after a failed coup last year. The government has arrested thousands of purported supporters of the coup effort, which Erdogan has said was engineered by Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in exile in the United States.

Since the attempted coup, criminal investigations have been opened against 150,000 people accused of being part of Gulen’s organization. There are 50,000 people currently jailed, including including at least 100 journalists. More than 100,000 public sector workers have been arbitrarily dismissed, according to Amnesty International.

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