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Turkish court convicts four rights activists on terrorism-related charges


By Ece Toksabay

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish court on Friday sentenced a former local head of Amnesty International to more than six years in jail and convicted three other activists on terrorism-related charges for holding a meeting about digital security, the rights group said.

Amnesty Turkey said on Twitter that seven other defendants, detained three years ago during a crackdown following an attempted coup in July 2016, were acquitted in a case which fuelled concern over Ankara's human rights record.

"This is an outrage. Absurd allegations. No evidence. After three year trial Taner Kilic convicted for membership of a terrorist organization," Amnesty representative Andrew Gardner wrote on Twitter.

Kilic, a former honorary chairman of Amnesty Turkey who was jailed for more than 14 months pending trial, was charged with supporting U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for the attempt to overthrow President Tayyip Erdogan.

Three other rights activists were sentenced to two years and one month in jail. Peter Steudtner, a German national, and Ali Gharavi, a Swede, were among the seven acquitted.

Ten of the defendants were detained while they participated in a workshop on digital security on the island of Buyukada, near Istanbul, in July 2017.

The prosecution alleged the gathering had been a secret meeting to organise an uprising and foment chaos. It alleged they had links to the network of cleric Gulen, who denies he was involved in the 2016 coup attempt.

About 80,000 people have been jailed in a sustained crackdown since the failed coup and 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others dismissed. Authorities have closed some 180 media organisations.

The Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatovic, on Friday decried "numerous and systematic" criminal proceedings against human rights defenders as a misuse of the judicial process.

She urged Turkish authorities, including the Council of Judges and Prosecutors, to acknowledge the situation faced by such activists and rectify it as a priority.

(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans and Catherine Evans)

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