Turkish court rules Amnesty’s Taner Kılıç remain in pre-trial detention

A day after the release of eight human rights activists by an İstanbul court, a court in Izmir ruled for the continuation of the pre-trial detention of Taner Kılıç, chair of the board of Amnesty International’s Turkey section, combining his case with the activists’ Büyükada case.

“In defiance of justice and logic, the İzmir court decides to transfer Taner Kılıç to the Büyükada case and continue his pre-trial detention,” Andrew Gardner, senior advisor and researcher on Turkey for Amnesty International, tweeted on Thursday.

“Prosecutor also requests that Taner continue to be held in pre-trial detention citing the fact that evidence is still to be collected,” said Gardner, and added:

“Judge confirms neither police report on Taner’s phone nor records of ByLock conversations received. All evidence in file is from defence.”

Kılıç, a lawyer, a founding member of AI Turkey and chairman of its board of directors since 2014, was arrested by an İzmir court on June 9 as part of an investigation into the faith-based Gülen movement.

“Extremely disappointing that court ruled to keep Amnesty Turkey chair Taner Kılıç in jail & a blow after good news of #Istanbul10’s release,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, Human Rights Watch (HRW) Turkey director, in a tweet on Thursday.

Reacting to the decision of the İzmir court, Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary-general, said: “Over the last 24 hours we have seen the twin hands of Turkey’s fickle justice system at play. While one grants liberty, the other, confronted with no less baseless charges, takes it away.”

“The release of the Istanbul 10 late last night restored some faith in Turkey’s justice system. Today, that faith has been washed away. Turkish authorities have repeatedly and publicly presumed Taner Kılıç’s guilt, on the basis of innuendo and unsupported allegations,” added Shetty.

“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.”

SCHRÖDER MET WITH ERDOĞAN FOR RELEASE OF STEUDTNER

Meanwhile, Der Spiegel reported on Thursday that former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder met with Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to seek the release of German activist Peter Steudtner.

According to the report, Schröder visited Turkey one week after the Sept. 24 general elections in Germany, upon the request of Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and with the approval of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who met with Schröder before his visit to Turkey.

Gabriel confirmed that Schröder had acted as a mediator in Steudtner’s release, saying he was “very grateful” for Schröder’s efforts, Deutsche Welle reported.

Gabriel told news magazine Der Spiegel that the release was “the first sign of a thaw, as Turkey has fulfilled all its commitments [in the case of Steudtner].” But he added: “Now we have to work on the release of the other detainees.”

Eleven German citizens remain in prison in Turkey, including four with Turkish-German citizenship. According to Deutsche Welle, the co-leader of the Green party, Cem Özdemir, also warned against speaking of a normalization of ties with Turkey as long as German citizens were in detention there and called for their release. He added that Germany had “not forgotten those who do not have a German passport and are also unlawfully in jail.”

German citizen Peter Frank Steudtner and Swedish national Ali Gharavi, who were released on Wednesday after 112 days in jail along with six other human rights activists, left Turkey on Thursday, the T24 news website reported. The two rights activists departed Turkey from İstanbul Atatürk Airport.

Stating that he is pleased with the release decision, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said “This is an encouraging signal, a first step.” Noting that “There are other citizens of Germany kept in prison on unintelligible reasons,” Gabriel stated that they will determinedly continue their efforts the release of those citizens kept in prison. “We are grateful to those who have been supporting us”

In his statement, Steudtner said “We all are very relieved now. We are grateful to those who have legally and diplomatically supported and acted in solidarity with us.”

On his Twitter account, spokesperson for the government Steffen Seibert has also stated that “Finally! Peter Steudtner and other human rights defenders are being released. We are happy for them and our thoughts are with those who are still in prison.”

EU WELCOMES RELEASE OF ACTIVISTS, ASKS FOR MORE

The European Union on Thursday welcomed the release of eight human rights activists, including Amnesty International’s Turkey chief İdil Eser, by an İstanbul court and asked for further positive steps to uphold fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey.

“The release on bail of those arrested in Büyükada Island in July, among them Amnesty International’s Turkey Director, is encouraging news. As their trial as well as investigations and trials of many journalists, academics, human rights defenders and other civil society activists continue, further positive steps are needed to uphold fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey and address the serious issues in the areas of rule of law,” Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, said in a written statement.

“The recent detention of Osman Kavala, Chairman of Anadolu Kültür, a trusted interlocutor and advocate of sound EU-Turkey relations, is the latest among worrying cases that need a very swift resolution on the basis of the principle of presumption of innocence and the application of pre-trial detention in line with the European Convention on Human Rights,” added Kocijancic.

Kavala was detained by Turkish police upon his arrival at İstanbul Atatürk Airport on Oct. 18.

President Erdoğan on Tuesday said detained human rights activist and prominent businessman Kavala was behind the Gezi protests of 2013, calling him Turkey’s George Soros.

“The facts of Turkey’s Soros have been revealed. His connections have been exposed. Who are you trying to fool? The same person is behind the Taksim events [Gezi Park protests]. You can also see those who are behind financial support for some places. We will stand against those who try to hit this nation from within. We will pay them back,” said Erdoğan during his party group meeting in Parliament.

Eight human rights activists, including Amnesty International’s Turkey chief İdil Eser, were released by an İstanbul court on Wednesday evening.

On July 5 Turkish police, acting on an anonymous tip, raided a hotel on Büyükada, one of the Princes’ Islands off İstanbul, and detained Eser from AI, İlknur Üstün from the Women’s Coalition, lawyer Günal Kurşun from the Human Rights Agenda Association, lawyer Nalan Erkem from the Citizens Assembly, Nejat Taştan from the Equal Rights Watch Association, Özlem Dalkıran from the Citizens’ Assembly, lawyer Şeyhmus Özbekli, Veli Acu from the Human Rights Agenda Association and two foreign trainers, Ali Garawi and Peter Steudtner.

The pro-Erdoğan Star daily claimed on July 11 that the CIA and MI6 were behind the meeting.

Another pro-Erdoğan paper, Yeni Şafak, on July 23 claimed that the rights activists had ties to the German BND intelligence service.

During a press conference in Hamburg on July 8, President Erdoğan accused the detained human rights defenders of plotting a follow-up to the July 15, 2016 coup attempt and signaled that the detention of the rights defenders could turn into imprisonment. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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