Prosecutor demands terror conviction for Amnesty’s honorary Turkey chairman
Prosecutors on Wednesday called for Amnesty International’s honorary Turkey chairman to be convicted of membership in a terrorist group, meaning up to 15 years in prison, in a trial labelled as “absurd” by the human rights group, the Middle East Eye news website reported.
Taner Kılıç is accused of links to US-based preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom Turkey blames for a failed coup in 2016. He had spent more than a year in pre-trial detention before his release in August 2018.
Kılıç is standing trial with 10 other human rights activists arrested in 2017 after holding a workshop on an island off Istanbul, the AFP news agency reported.
The state prosecutor called for five of them, including Amnesty’s former country director İdil Eser, to be sentenced on the lesser charge of “aiding a terrorist group without being a member of it.”
The remaining five should be acquitted, the prosecutor said, including German citizen Peter Frank Steudtner and Swedish citizen Ali Gharavi.
The central piece of evidence against Kılıç was that he had an encrypted messaging application on his phone called ByLock, which Ankara claims was especially created for Gülen supporters.
A police report released a year after his arrest found that Kılıç did not have the application on his phone.
In a statement Amnesty’s Secretary-General Kumi Naidoo said the prosecution had failed to present any credible evidence to substantiate the “absurd” charges against Kılıç.
“The egregious injustice that our colleagues and friends have experienced for more than two years is common to hundreds of human rights defenders in Turkey who spend their days either languishing in jail or living in constant fear of prosecution,” Naidoo said.
Tens of thousands were jailed and more than 100,000 people lost their jobs under a two-year state of emergency that followed the failed coup in 2016, a crackdown that critics say went far beyond Gülen’s movement.