Turkish court adjourns final hearing in trial of human rights activists

A Turkish court on Wednesday adjourned the trial of 11 human rights activists, saying defence statements had taken longer than expected, independent news site Bianet reported.

The court was expected to announce its verdict on Wednesday, but after the hearing reached its sixth hour, defence lawyers asked the court to schedule a new hearing. 

Taner Kılıç, the honorary chair of the Turkey branch of rights group Amnesty International, faces up to 15 years in prison on charges of membership of a terrorist organisation. The others face similar terrorism charges.

Kılıç was released in August in 2018 after spending 14 months in prison on charges of membership of the Gülen movement, which Turkey accuses of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016 and designates as a terrorist organisation.

The main evidence the prosecutors had against Kılıç was his use of an encrypted chat app called ByLock that Turkish authorities say was primarily used by the devotees of the Gülen group. Kılıç on Wednesday resubmitted to the court four different reports that he said showed he did not use the app, Bianet said.

Amnesty’s former Turkey director, İdil Eser, and nine others are accused of plotting a coup in a 2017 meeting at a hotel on Büyükada, the largest of Istanbul’s Princes’ islands. 

The 11 activists, who came together for a workshop on digital security, were arrested in a police raid and charged with spying and aiding a terrorist organisation. Eight of them, including two foreign nationals, spent 113 days in prison before being released on bail. 

“I am not making a defence, but a statement as I did not commit a crime,” Eser said in a statement read by her lawyer in court since she is abroad. “The plea of the prosecutor violates the conventions Turkey has ratified and the constitution,” she said.