Call for Amnesty Turkey head's release as trial resumes

Amnesty says musicians Sting and Peter Gabriel and whistle-blower Edward Snowden signed open letter making the call.

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    Amnesty's Taner Kilic was detained in June in the western city of Izmir [John Macdougal/AFP/Getty Images]
    Amnesty's Taner Kilic was detained in June in the western city of Izmir [John Macdougal/AFP/Getty Images]

    A group of more than 70 musicians, artists, activists and politicians have called on Turkey to drop "terrorism" charges against 11 human rights activists. 

    Amnesty International said an open letter making the call was signed by musicians Sting and Peter Gabriel, whistle-blower Edward Snowden and artist Ai Weiwei among others.

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    Their demands included the release of Taner Kilic, Amnesty chairperson in Turkey, whose trial, alongside the others detained, was set to resume on Wednesday.

    The open letter called the accusations towards the rights activists "outlandish" and "politically motivated".

    Kilic was detained in June in the western city of Izmir for using ByLock, an encrypted communication software which the government says is used by members of an outlawed group led by Fethullah Gulen, a US-based self-exiled religious leader who the government blames for last year's coup attempt. 

    The other activists, who were taken into custody a month later in Istanbul, were accused of supporting "terrorist" organisations, such as the Gulen group and Kurdish separatist factions.

    The suspects and Amnesty International strongly deny the accusations against them. 

    Last month, a court in Istanbul merged Kilic's case with that of the other 10 activists.

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    The judge presiding over the case also released eight of the 10 accused until the start of the trial.

    The group, which includes a German and Swedish citizen, had spent the previous four months in prison.

    The remaining two accused were released in July pending the trial.

    However, Kilic was remanded in custody.

    The second trial of the suspects was scheduled to commence at an Istanbul court on Wednesday.

    Local and international rights groups, as well Turkey's European allies accuse Ankara of using the coup attempt as a pretext to silence opposition in the country.

    Government's view

    The government says that the purges and detentions are aimed at removing Gulen elements from state institutions and other parts of society and has emphasised the independence of Turkey's judiciary.

    Ravza Kavakci Kan, a deputy chairperson of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), said that the trials and investigations that followed the coup attempt fell within the bounds of the law.

    "Turkey is a country of rule of law. We, as politicians, follow the developments in this trial or other trials as other outsiders follow it. We have no jurisdiction over them," she told Al Jazeera.

    "We do not accept the accusations made [against Turkey] … We have been particularly closely monitoring the investigations and trials that were launched after the failed coup in order for them to be carried out within the rule of law. Turkey should be congratulated for these efforts," she added.

    Umut Uras is on Twitter, follow him on @Um_Uras

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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