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Turkey remands six Amnesty activists pending 'terrorism' trial

Six activists remain in custody under the charge of membership of a terrorist organisation; rights group called it a 'travesty of justice'
Activists of Amnesty International stage a protest against the detention of the head of Amnesty International in Turkey, Taner Kilic, in front of the Turkish Embassy in Berlin on 15 June 2017 (AFP)

A Turkish court on Tuesday ordered that six human rights activists including Amnesty International's Turkey director remain in custody for aiding a terror group, in a case the NGO called a "travesty of justice".

Turkey director Idil Eser was detained on 5 July along with seven other activists and two foreign trainers during a digital security and information management workshop on Buyukada, an island south of Istanbul.

"Six were remanded in custody and four released on judicial control," Amnesty International's Turkey researcher Andrew Gardner told AFP.

Prosecutors accuse them of "committing a crime in the name of a terror organisation without being a member".

Amnesty International's Turkey chair, Taner Kilic, is also in police custody. He was arrested on 6 June with 22 other lawyers and charged with membership of a "terrorist" organisation. Amnesty called the charges "baseless".

An attempted military coup a year ago triggered a sweeping crackdown on people whom authorities say they suspect of links to the network of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for the coup.

More than 50,000 people have been jailed pending trial and 150,000 dismissed or suspended from their jobs, including soldiers, police, teachers, judges and other public servants.

On Friday, more than 7,000 police, civil servants and academics were dismissed, the day before hundreds of thousands of Turks took to the streets to commemorate the thwarting of the coup.

Eser and those detained with him had been attending a workshop on digital security and information management. Among those arrested were two foreign trainers – a German and a Swedish national.

The United States has said it is "deeply concerned" by the detentions.

The purge, which has also led to the closure of some 130 media outlets and the jailing of 150 journalists, has alarmed Turkey's Western allies and rights groups, who say President Tayyip Erdogan is using the coup as a pretext to muzzle dissent.

Some 250 people were killed in last year's coup attempt, and the government has said the security measures are necessary because of the gravity of the threats facing Turkey. Gulen has condemned the coup attempt and denied involvement.