Istanbul court rules to keep Amnesty’s Turkey chair in jail

Photo showing a silhouette of Salil Shetty, Amnesty International Secretary General, outside the Caglayan courthouse in Istanbul as the trial of eleven human rights activists resumes, including the two top figures with Amnesty International in Turkey, June 21, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 21 June 2018

Istanbul court rules to keep Amnesty’s Turkey chair in jail

ISTANBUL: An Istanbul court on Thursday ruled to keep the chair of Amnesty International’s Turkey branch in jail after over one year behind bars on terror charges, in defiance of complaints by the rights group that the case has no foundation.
Taner Kilic has been held since June 2017 in the western city of Izmir, accused of links to US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen who Turkey says ordered the 2016 failed coup. Gulen denies the accusation.
Kilic is one of dozens of journalists and rights activists caught up in the crackdown launched under a state of emergency after the coup, which critics say has netted not just the suspected plotters but also opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The court ruled “to keep our colleague Taner Kilic, who has already been unjustly imprisoned for one year, in jail,” Amnesty Turkey said in a statement.
“All evidence shows he is innocent... this injustice is unacceptable,” it added. The next hearing in the trial was set for November 7.
Kilic, who spoke to the court via video link from Izmir, was arrested on June 6, 2017, on what Amnesty describes as the “baseless charge” of belonging to a terrorist organization.
Authorities accused Kilic of having an encrypted messaging application on his phone in August 2014 called ByLock, which Ankara claims was especially created for Gulen supporters.
Amnesty has always rejected that Kilic had used Bylock on his phone and said even a report presented at the trial had acknowledged there was no evidence that he did so.
“We are all in a state of shock,” Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, who was present in court, wrote on Twitter after the ruling, describing it as a “sad commentary on the state of (Turkey’s) justice system.”
In a cruel twist, an Istanbul court earlier this year ordered his conditional release but then overturned its decision within 24 hours, and he has been in jail ever since.
If he is found guilty, he could face up to 15 years in jail.
Kilic is on trial with 10 other rights activists including Amnesty’s Turkey director Idil Eser, who were detained on terror charges after holding a workshop on an island off Istanbul.
The other 10 were all released last year, although they remain charged and on trial.


Turkey sends armed drone to northern Cyprus amid gas dispute

Updated 16 min 57 sec ago

Turkey sends armed drone to northern Cyprus amid gas dispute

  • The breakaway northern Cyprus government approved the use of the airport for unmanned aerial vehicles
  • A recent agreement between Turkey and Libya claims extensive areas of sea for Turkey in the Mediterranean

FAMAGUSTA, Cyprus: A Turkish military drone was delivered to northern Cyprus on Monday amid growing tensions over Turkey’s deal with Libya that extended its claims to the gas-rich eastern Mediterranean.
The Bayraktar TB2 drone landed in Gecitkale Airport in Famagusta around 0700 GMT, an AFP correspondent said, after the breakaway northern Cyprus government approved the use of the airport for unmanned aerial vehicles.
It followed a deal signed last month between Libya and Turkey that could prove crucial in the scramble for recently discovered gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.
The agreement claimed extensive areas of the sea for Turkey, undercutting claims by Greece and the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, which runs the southern part of the island.
Analysts say Turkey was pushing back against rival efforts to claim exploration rights in the area after Cyprus, Greece, Egypt and Israel excluded Turkey from a new “East Mediterranean Gas Forum” that also includes Jordan, Italy and the Palestinian territories.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is only recognized by Turkey, said approval for the drone was given last week “in light of the latest developments in the eastern Mediterranean region” and “to protect the legitimate rights and interests of the TRNC and Turkey.”
The TRNC’s transport minister, Tolga Atakan, said Turkish drones were partly a response to the acquisition of Israeli drones by Cyprus in October to monitor its exclusive economic zone.
Cyprus has been divided since Turkish troops occupied the northern third of the island in 1974 in response to a coup sponsored by the Greek military junta.
Turkey already has two drilling vessels in the eastern Mediterranean despite the threat of European Union sanctions.
Ankara does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member, and says the TRNC has the right to explore around the entire island.