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Turkey: Former local Amnesty head acquitted of terror charges

Taner Kilic cleared alongside three other rights activists in re-trial of terrorism case
Amnesty International's honorary chairman in Turkey Taner Kilic, delivers a speech during an Amnesty International meeting in Istanbul on August 28, 2018 (AFP)

A Turkish court on Tuesday acquitted Amnesty International Turkey's honorary chair of terrorism charges along with three other activists.

In 2020, the Istanbul 35th High Criminal Court sentenced Taner Kilic to six years and three months in prison on charges of "membership in a terrorist organisation".

Amnesty's Turkey director Idil Eser and human rights defenders Gunal Kursun and Ozlem Dalkiran were sentenced to one year and 13 months in prison for "aiding a terrorist organisation" in the same case.

Kilic had been in and out of jail since 2017, when he was first accused of links to the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, an ally-turned-enemy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish government blames Gulen for the failed 2016 coup attempt.

Kilic was initially detained for 14 months before being released in 2018. 

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Last year, Turkey's top appeals court, the Court of Cassation, referred Kilic's case back to a first-instance court on the grounds of an "incomplete investigation".

According to Amnesty, the lower court on Tuesday ruled to acquit all four defendants due to a lack of sufficient evidence.

“Today’s ruling brings to an end a travesty of justice of spectacular proportions," said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general, in a statement. 

"While we are hugely relieved that the convictions have finally been quashed, the fact that they were brought in the first place remains unconscionable.

'Today’s ruling revealed the true purpose of such politically motivated prosecutions: using the courts as a weapon to silence critical voices'

- Agnes Callamard, Amnesty

“For six years, we have watched the wheels of injustice grind as the baseless claims levelled against these four brave human rights defenders have been accepted as fact by successive courts. Today’s ruling revealed the true purpose of such politically motivated prosecutions: using the courts as a weapon to silence critical voices.”

The four activists were among 10 people detained in July 2017 while they were attending a workshop on digital security on Buyukada island organised by Citizen's Assembly Turkey. 

Seven of the suspects, in what became known as the Buyukada Case, were acquitted in 2020.

The arrests came in the wake of the July 2016 coup attempt, the aftermath of which saw tens of thousands imprisoned or sacked from their jobs in the military, public and private sectors.

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