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ISTANBUL: An Istanbul court on Wednesday ordered the release of Amnesty International’s Turkey chair who has spent more than a year in jail over alleged links to the 2016 failed coup, the rights group said.
First detained in June 2017, Taner Kilic should be released in the next hours, Amnesty’s Turkey researcher Andrew Gardner told AFP, saying celebrations would only begin “once he is out.”
Kilic, who is being held in the western city of Izmir, is accused of links to US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen who Turkey says ordered the 2016 failed coup. Gulen denies the accusation.
“We are overjoyed at this news,” said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s new Secretary General.
But he added: “Whilst we rejoice at this decision, our celebrations will only truly begin when he is safely back at home in the arms of his wife and daughters.”
He said there also was “anger” that the “baseless” charges had not been dropped.
His release is set to be conditional, with the charges standing and Kilic remaining on trial.
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.
He 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.
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.
He could face up to 15 years in jail if found guilty.
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.