June 21, 2018 / 5:56 PM / 5 months ago

Turkish court rules to keep Amnesty official in jail

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish court ruled on Thursday to keep the local chair of Amnesty International in jail as his trial on terror charges continues, the group said, extending a year-long detention that has prompted global outrage.

The court ruled that Taner Kilic would be remanded in prison and his next hearing would be in November, Amnesty officials said on Twitter. Kilic has been jailed since June 2017 on charges of supporting the cleric that Ankara blames for a July 2016 failed coup.

Prosecutors say Kilic downloaded ByLock, a messaging app allegedly used by followers of Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based Muslim preacher Turkey says orchestrated the attempt to topple President Tayyip Erdogan. Kilic has denied the charge, according to Amnesty.

“Today’s heart-breaking decision to keep our colleague in jail is yet another travesty of justice,” Amnesty’s secretary general, Salil Shetty, said in a statement.

“Taner’s situation is emblematic of what is happening in Turkey today. Many of human rights defenders are either languishing in jail or living in constant fear of arrest.”

A court in February ruled for Kilic’s conditional release, but changed that decision later the same day following an appeal by a prosecutor.

Kilic’s case has attracted global attention and is seen by some as representative of a broad crackdown under Erdogan, who is facing a presidential election on Sunday.

Rights groups and Turkey’s Western allies have voiced concern about what they say is deepening authoritarianism. The government says its measures are necessary given the security threats it faces.

Kilic is facing trial on terrorism charges as are 10 other human rights activists in a similar case. All deny the charges. The 10 others had been previously released, while Kilic has remained in detention.

Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun and Ali Kucukgocmen; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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