Turkey verdict expected in trial of 11 activists accused of terrorism


A court in Istanbul is expected on Friday to announce its verdict in the trial of 11 human rights activists accused of terrorism-related charges after nearly three years. Among the defendants are Amnesty International's former Turkey chairman Taner Kilic, German citizen Peter Steudtner, and Swedish national Ali Gharavi. The court had delayed its verdict earlier, but Steudtner's lawyer Murat Boduroglu told journalists that a decision could come on Friday.

Ten of the activists were detained during a raid at a human rights training workshop on the island of Buyukada, off Istanbul, in July 2017. They are no longer in custody. Kilic was detained a month later, and released on bail in August 2018.

The case raised tensions between Turkey and its European allies, especially Germany. In November, the prosecutor asked for the acquittal of four of the defendants, including Steudtner, citing lack of evidence, according to court documents seen by journalists.

If convicted, Kilic could face a sentence of up to 15 years in prison for membership in a terrorist organisation. He is accused of links to the network of U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. Turkey blames Gulen's network for a coup attempt in 2016 and has labelled his movement as a terrorist group. The prosecutor is seeking convictions for five others on charges of supporting terrorism.

Amnesty has criticised the trial as "politically motivated" and called for acquittal of all defendants. "This verdict matters, not just to these 11 women and men and their families, but to everyone who values human rights, in Turkey and beyond," said Amnesty Europe director Nils Muiznieks in a statement on the group's website.    (dpa)

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