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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Wednesday, September 26, 2018

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Rights activists face trial over terror charges in Turkey

Turkish justice system

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ISTANBUL, Turkey - Facing terror charges, 11 human rights activists, including two senior Amnesty International officials, have gone on trial in Istanbul.

The group stands to face up to 15 years in jail on charges that include membership of and giving aid to an armed terrorist group. 

All the members of the group, that includes a German Peter Steudtner and a Swedish national Ali Gharavi, have denied the charges and Amnesty accused in a statement that the case is politically motivated.

The group further stated that it is the Turkish justice system that is on trial.

The case, which has raised concerns over freedom of expression in Turkey, comes as part of the country’s crackdown on last year's failed coup attempt. 

Since then, a state of emergency that was declared in the coup’s aftermath is still in place, allowing the government to rule by decrees.

With hundreds killed and thousands injured, 35 coup plotters were also killed.

Meanwhile, since the coup, more than 50,000 people have been arrested and 120,000 sacked or suspended in the aftermath of the failed coup.

In response, the government has so far dismissed more than 150,000 state employees including almost 7,400 civil servants, for alleged links to terror groups in a government decree.

The crackdown by the Erdogan government, that has been widely and globally criticized, has also led to a wave of 50,000 arrests, are part of an attempt to purge dissent.

The government also stripped nearly 350 soldiers of their ranks and former national soccer team players Hakan Sukur and Arif Erdem of their medals.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that the measures are essential to maintain stability.

Erdogan has accused U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen of masterminding the coup attempt, but the cleric denies the charge.

On Wednesday, dozens of people gathered outside the court building in Istanbul, holding slogans that read "Free rights defenders.”

On July 5, ten of the accused activists - including Idil Eser, the Director of Amnesty Turkey - were detained in a police raid during a workshop on digital security on an island off Istanbul.

Amnesty Turkey's chairman, Taner Kilic, who was held in June is also on trial.

In the indictment, all the activists are also accused of seeking to create "chaos in society.”

Amnesty has said that the "trumped up" charges "do not stand up to the slightest scrutiny.”

Further, Amnesty's Europe director John Dalhuisen said, "From the moment of their detentions, it has been clear that these are politically motivated prosecutions aimed at silencing critical voices within Turkey.”

 

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