Turkish court finalises jail sentences for rights advocates in Büyükada case

A higher court in Istanbul on Tuesday approved the prison sentences issued to civil society activists and human rights defenders in the Büyükada case.

The terror charges against the suspects in the case stem from a 2017 meeting, a digital security workshop held in Büyükada, the largest of Istanbul’s Prince’s Islands, for the alleged purpose of plotting a coup.

Taner Kılıç, honorary chair of Amnesty International Turkey, was sentenced to six years and three months in prison for membership of a terrorist organisation, while former director of AI Turkey İdil Eser, and activists Günal Kurşun and Özlem Dalkıran received two years and one month each for aiding a terrorist organisation in July.

On Tuesday, the court also approved acquittal rulings for defendants Nejat  Taştan and Veli Acu. Four more defendants had been acquitted in July.

Turkish police had raided the 2017 workshop and detained Eser, Swedish national Ali Gharavi, German national human rights educator Peter Steudtner, Özlem Dalkıran and Nalan Erkem from Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, Veli Acu and Günal Kurşun from the Human Rights Agenda Association, Şeyhmus Özbekli from the HAK Initiative, Nejat Taştan from the Equal Rights Monitoring Association, and İlknur Üstün from the Women’s Coalition.

Eight defendants spent 113 days in pre-trial detention, to be released in the first hearing of the case heard in Oct. 2017.

Kılıç’s file was added to the case after he was arrested over having installed on his phone the app ByLock, which Turkey maintains is exclusively used by followers of Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen.

The preacher and his followers are accused of having organised the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016, which kickstarted a large-scale government purge of alleged Gülenists and other opposition groups. Tens of thousands have been arrested since, while more than 150,000 lost their livelihoods in various areas of public service.


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