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Turkish court orders release of eight rights activists on bail

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A Turkish court late Wednesday ordered the release of eight human rights activists who are standing trial, including Amnesty International’s director of Turkey, Idil Eser.

The activists will be released on bail. Their next hearing is set for 22 November.

A total of 11 activists, including a German and a Swedish national as well as Eser, went on trial in Istanbul on contested terror charges, seen by the rights watchdog as a test case for the judiciary. Two of the activists had already been released for the duration of the trial.

Turkish prosecutors have demanded as long as 15-year prison sentences for the 11 activists.

Most were detained in July after participating in a workshop on digital security held on an island off the coast of Istanbul.

The prosecutors have alleged a range of charges, including belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the network of the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused by Ankara of engineering last year’s coup attempt.

The case has sparked international alarm and amplified fears of declining freedom of expression under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“This is a grotesque abuse of power and highlights the precarious situation facing human rights activists in the country,” Amnesty’s secretary general Salil Shetty said after Eser’s arrest in July.

“We are profoundly disturbed and outraged that some of Turkey’s leading human rights defenders, including the director of Amnesty International Turkey, should have been detained so blatantly without cause.”

Eser spoke on the first day of the trial on Wednesday.

“I don’t understand how I can be associated with three different terrorist organisations by having attended a workshop,” she said. “I don’t have anything to regret. I just did my work as a human rights defender.”

[Source: Middle East Eye]
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