ISTANBUL – Prosecutors called Wednesday for Amnesty International’s Turkey chair to be convicted of membership in a terror group, meaning up to 15 years in prison, in a trial labelled “absurd” by the rights group.
Taner Kilic spent more than a year in pre-trial detention before being released in August 2018, accused of links to U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gulen whom Turkey blames for an attempted coup in 2016.
Kilic is on trial with 10 other human rights activists, arrested in 2017 after holding a workshop on an island off Istanbul.
The prosecutor called for five of them, including Amnesty’s former country director Idil Eser, to be sentenced on the lesser charge of “aiding a terror group without being a member.”
The remaining five should be acquitted, he said, including German citizen Peter Frank Steudtner and Swedish citizen Ali Gharavi.
“After months in jail and years before the courts, the prosecution has failed to present any credible evidence to substantiate the absurd charges,” Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty’s secretary general, said in a statement.
The central piece of evidence against Kilic was that he had an encrypted messaging application on his phone called ByLock, which Ankara claims was especially created for Gulen supporters.
A police report released a year after his arrest found he did not have the application on his phone.
“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,” said Naidoo.
Tens of thousands were jailed and more than 100,000 people lost their jobs under the two-year state of emergency that followed the failed coup in 2016 — a crackdown which critics say went far beyond Gulen’s movement.