Turkish court releases Amnesty International activists on bail
Turkish court releases Amnesty International activists on bail

Turkey’s 35th Heavy Penal Court in Istanbul on Wednesday released [press release] eight of the eleven Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] human rights activists on bail pending trial for charges related to assisting the terrorist organization Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) [BBC backgrounder].

Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty stated of the release: “Today, finally, we celebrate that our friends and colleagues can go back with their loved ones and can sleep in their own beds for the first time in almost four months. But any joy is tainted by the ongoing detention of Amnesty International’s chair, Taner Kılıç, whose separate trial is due to start tomorrow.”

The indictment [AI, brief] alleges the individuals “aided armed terrorist organizations” during a routine human rights workshop near Istanbul on the island of Büyükada in July. Individuals indicted include AI Director İdil Eser and Chair, Taner Kılıç. Eight of the eleven activists were held in Turkey’s high security prison, Silivri, near Istanbul.

AI rejects the charges, saying the indictment is yet another attempt by the Turkish government to diminish civil liberties and reduce media and press freedoms. The court cited to the European Convention on Human Rights to justify they initial detentions as “legitimate and proportional.”

All eleven activists face up to 15 years if found guilty. Wednesday was the first hearing in the trial and the next is set for November 22. Taner Kılıç is also scheduled to appear at a hearing tomorrow in Izmir on a separate charge of “membership of the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization”.

Shetty vowed to continue fighting for the release of the remaining activists stating: “Tonight we take a brief moment to celebrate, but tomorrow we will continue our struggle to ensure that Taner, İdil and their colleagues are acquitted of these baseless charges. We will not stop until the charges are dropped and all of them are free.”