A Turkish court has convicted two former Amnesty International leaders and two rights activists on “terrorism” charges on Friday July 03, as the rights group described the verdict as a “travesty of justice”.
Idil Eser, former Amnesty International Turkey director was sentenced to 25 months along with three others for “helping a terrorist organisation”.
Taner Kilic, ex-Amnesty International Turkey chair, was sentenced to six years and three months for “membership of a terrorist organisation”, Amnesty Turkey said on Twitter.
All four remain free pending an appeal.
They are among the 11 human rights activists who were tried and became a symbol of the crackdown on critics after the 2016 failed attempt to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The court acquitted seven other activists including Peter Steudtner, a German citizen, and Ali Gharavi, who is Swedish.
The trial had been followed closely abroad with Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, U2’s Bono and others offering high-profile support.
“The decision of the court is staggering. During 12 court hearings, each and every allegation has been comprehensively exposed as a baseless slur,” Amnesty’s Andrew Gardner said in a statement, describing the verdict as a “travesty of justice”.
“The court’s verdict defies logic and exposes this three-year trial as the politically motivated attempt to silence independent voices it was from day one,” he added.
The majority of the rights defenders on trial were arrested in 2017 after a workshop on digital security on an island off the coast of Istanbul.
Turkish authorities accused them of organising a “secret meeting”, with the two foreigners’ presence reinforcing officials’ suspicions of a plot against Turkey.
The activists were accused of seeking to wreak “chaos in society” – a similar charge to the one brought against protesters whose anti-government demonstrations in the summer of 2013 shook Turkey.
Kilic, now Amnesty’s honorary chair, was released on bail in August 2018 after 14 months in jail.
He was accused of links to the movement led by US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, which is outlawed in Turkey.
Ankara accuses Gulen of ordering the 2016 attempted overthrow of President RecepTayyip Erdogan but he denies the claim.
It was claimed Kilic used the encrypted ByLock messaging application, which authorities believe was used to coordinate the coup bid.
But a police report showed Kilic did not have the application on his phone.
Following the attempted putsch, tens of thousands of people were arrested including journalists, accused of links to Gulen while over 100,000 public sector workers were sacked or suspended for similar allegations. (Source: CNA)