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Court in Izmir orders Turkey Amnesty chief to stay behind bars

Activists of Amnesty International stage a protest against the detention of the head of Amnesty International in Turkey, Taner Kilic, in front of the Turkish Embassy in Berlin on June 15, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

A Turkish court has extended the detention of Amnesty International’s regional head over allegations of involvement in last year’s failed coup.     

The court in Izmir ordered on Thursday that Taner Kilic, who was detained in June, remain in detention pending trial.

Kilic is accused of having links to a group led by US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara accuses of having masterminded the July 2016 coup attempt.

The latest hearing in Izmir comes a day after Kilic also went on trial in Istanbul via video link from a prison in Izmir in another case along with 10 rights activists, including Amnesty’s Turkey director Idil Eser, who were arrested while attending a digital security training workshop in July.

Kilıc was not present at the workshop, because he was in prison after being arrested the previous month. However, he is accused of knowing about it.

Kilic is the voluntary chairman of Amnesty's board of directors handling administrative affairs in Turkey and Eser is in charge of day-to-day business including Amnesty Turkey's campaigns for human rights.

Eser and seven others were freed for the duration of their trial after the first hearing in Istanbul on Wednesday on charges of "aiding" an armed terror group. Two others had been released earlier.

They are accused of links to Gulen and other outlawed groups including the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984, and the far-left Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C).

Following the decision by the court in Izmir to keep the chair of Amnesty International Turkey - Taner Kılıc - in jail, Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said: “The Turkish authorities have repeatedly and publicly presumed Taner Kılıc’s guilt, on the basis of innuendo and unsupported allegations." 

“We will continue undaunted to campaign for the release of our chair and the dropping of the charges against all human rights defenders in Turkey,” he added.

John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe director, who was attending the trial, said the prosecutions were aimed at silencing critical voices within Turkey.

“Without substance or foundation the Turkish authorities have tried and failed to build a case against Idil, Taner and the other nine human rights activists,” said Dalhuisen.

This image shows Taner Kilic and 10 activists from the Istanbul case. (Photo by Amnesty International)

Amnesty said Kilic's case in Izmir will be merged with the 10 activists' case in Istanbul.

The next court hearing of the 11 human rights activists -- including a German and a Swedish national who have been set free -- is scheduled for November 22 in Istanbul.

Tens of thousands of people have been arrested or dismissed from office in a wide-ranging crackdown since the coup, prompting international criticism.

Countries critical of Turkey, particularly Germany, consider some of their citizens jailed in Turkey, to be political prisoners.

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