Turkey detains Amnesty chief after court orders release

Turkish police took back into custody the head of rights group Amnesty International in Turkey, hours after an Istanbul court ordered his conditional release, the rights group said on Thursday.

Taner Kılıç has been held since June 2017, when he was detained on suspicion of being part of the group led by US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating the July 2016 attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Kılıç has consistently denied the claims, while Amnesty has branded them as “baseless”.

The Turkish authorities refers to the Gülen movement as a “terrorist organisation” but Gülen strongly denies both any link to the coup bid and the terror label. 

Kılıç’s supporters were relieved Wednesday when the Istanbul court his release from a jail in the Aegean city of Izmir under judicial control. 

But hours later, a new arrest warrant was issued for Kılıç, and he was taken back into custody, Amnesty said.

“We flew to Izmir and drove to the prison, hoping to witness Taner’s release with his family. Instead, around midnight, Amnesty International witnessed Taner being taken from the Izmir prison into gendarmerie custody in a station nearby,” Amnesty’s Europe director Gauri van Gulik said on Twitter.

‘Odd legal manoeuvres’

Gulik said Kılıç’s lawyers discovered the prosecutor had appealed the court’s decision.

While the Istanbul court rejected the appeal, it nonetheless sent the application to another court for a decision on Kılıç’s detention.

“While no formal decision was communicated to lawyers, gendarmerie said there is an arrest warrant out for him,” she said.

Gulik denounced the “odd legal manoeuvres… used to keep him behind bars”, adding that Kılıç would be taken to court later on Thursday for a ruling.

Kılıç had been on trial along with 10 other rights activists including Amnesty’s Turkey director Idil Eser, German activist Peter Steudtner and Swedish colleague Ali Gharavi. 

The other 10 were all released last year though their trial continues, with the next hearing set for June 21

The 10 are accused of links to Gülen and other outlawed groups including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency against Turkey.

Following the 2016 failed coup, Turkey introduced a state of emergency which was renewed last month for the sixth time. 

Over 55 000 people have been taken into custody over suspected links to Gülen under the state of emergency.

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