Turkey Frees Honorary Chair Of Amnesty International Turkey After Year In Jail

After serving 14 months in a Turkish jail on terrorism charges that human rights groups say are baseless, Taner Kiliç stepped free on Wednesday into the embrace of his family.

Amnesty International posted a picture of its local honorary chair. Kilic is smiling, his arms wrapped around his wife and daughters, who are beaming as they grip him tightly.

A Turkish court ordered Kiliç's release earlier in the day, even as his trial is ongoing on charges that he supported a U.S.-based cleric whom Ankara blames for a failed coup attempt two years ago. The charges against Kiliç have not been dropped, and his future remains uncertain.

In June, Kiliç said he intended to carry on his work fighting human rights abuses upon his eventual release.

"I know now more than ever how important human rights are," he told Amnesty International at the time.

In a statement Wednesday, Amnesty International Secretary General Kumi Naidoo rejoiced at Kiliç's release, but said his elation was tempered by what he called the ongoing "vicious crackdown" in Turkey.

"Beneath the smiles of joy and relief there will be sorrow, anger and a steely determination," Naidoo said. "Sorrow for all the things Taner has missed during his cruel incarceration. Anger that the baseless charges against him and the Istanbul 10 have not been dropped. And determination to continue our fight for human rights in Turkey."

Critics point to the arrest of Kiliç, and others swept up under Turkey's anti-terrorism laws as evidence of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ever-tightening grip on power.

Last month, as he marked the second anniversary of the failed coup against him, Erdogan noted that Turkey has "a very strong memory."

Indeed, his ongoing purge has seen more than 130,000 people fired from their jobs in the military, police, civil service and academia, as tens of thousands more people face charges, NPR's Peter Kenyon has reported.

Many of those charged — like Kiliç — are accused of having connections to exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, a onetime Erdogan ally now living in the United States, who has denied involvement in the coup attempt.

In April, on Kiliç's 300th day behind bars, activists carried out protests across the world, showcased by Amnesty, advocating for his release.

On Wednesday, the same day that wish was granted, Turkey rejected a second appeal to free a U.S. pastor on trial for espionage. Andrew Brunson, 50, has been living under house arrest since last month after his initial detainment some two years ago.

Brunson's case has set off a diplomatic dispute between the U.S. and Turkey, as Ankara has rebuffed President Trump's calls for his release.

Also Wednesday, Turkey announced that it is increasing tariffs on U.S. products such as cars and alcohol. The move comes after Trump announced last week that he is doubling U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Turkey.

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