Top Turkish court overturns 4 rights defenders' 'terrorism' convictions

The Court of Cassation, Turkey's high court of appeals, has overturned terrorism-related convictions of four rights defenders, including Amnesty International Turkey's Honorary Chair Taner Kılıç.

Reuters - Duvar English

Turkey's top court overturned terrorism-related convictions of the former local head of Amnesty International, Taner Kılıç, and three other activists, the rights group said on Nov. 22.

The Court of Cassation referred Kılıç's case back to a first-instance court on the grounds of an "incomplete investigation", the group said.

The court was not immediately available for comment.

A total of 11 rights defenders were being tried in the Büyükada Case, including Kılıç and its former executive director İdil Eser, on various charges, including “being a member of an armed terrorist organization” and “aiding armed terrorist organizations.”

They were detained in 2017 while they were attending a human rights workshop on Büyükada, an island near Istanbul.

After more than 14 months in prison, Kılıç was released on bail in August 2018. Eight of the others, including two foreign nationals, spent almost four months each behind bars before they were released in October 2017.

In 2020, Kılıç, a former honorary chairman of Amnesty Turkey, was sentenced to more than six years in prison on charges of supporting U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Ankara blames for orchestrating an attempted coup in 2016.

Three other rights activists were sentenced to two years and one month in jail for assisting a terrorist organisation. Those accused denied the charges.

At the time, the prosecution alleged the defendants who participated in a workshop on digital security on the island of Büyükada, near Istanbul, had come together for a secret meeting to organise an uprising and foment chaos.


Critics say that Turkey's courts muzzle free speech and political dissent under pressure from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, charges the government denies.

"Today's ruling brings to an end a travesty of justice of spectacular proportions," said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International's Secretary General.

"While we are hugely relieved that the convictions have finally been quashed, the fact that the court has ruled that Taner's case requires further investigation is disappointing."