EU demands fair trial for coup suspects held in Turkey

Amnesty International chairman Taner Kilic is among the journalists and rights activists caught up in crackdown by Turkish authorities.

ISTANBUL - The EU on Thursday warned Turkey it must give a fair trial to the Amnesty International country chairman, who has been held in jail for the past year, in line with European rights standards.

Turkish authorities have detained Taner Kilic since June 2017 over accusations of links to the group Ankara says was behind an attempted coup against the government in 2016.

The European Union's relations with Turkey have been blighted by a series of rows in recent years, particularly since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's crackdown following the bid to overthrow him.

"The authorities in Turkey -- a EU candidate country and member of the Council of Europe -- need to ensure the right to fair trail, a legal process, on the basis of the principle of presumption of innocence and in line with the European Convention of Human Rights and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights," a spokesperson for the European Commission said in a statement.

Negotiations for Turkey to join the bloc began in 2005 but are effectively frozen, and Erdogan has drifted increasingly closer to Russia and Iran, especially concerning the conflict in Syria, despite being a NATO member.

Amnesty on Wednesday vowed to intensify efforts to win freedom for Kilic, who is one of dozens of journalists and rights activists caught up in the crackdown launched in the wake of the coup.

Kilic was arrested on June 6, 2017, on what Amnesty describes as the "baseless charge of belonging to a terrorist organisation".

Thousands of suspects

Turkish courts have so far handed jail terms to more than 2,000 suspects over the failed 2016 coup aimed at unseating President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a government minister said Thursday.

"Out of 287 court cases, 171 have been decided: 2,140 defendants have been given jail terms and 1,478 of them have been acquitted," Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul told state news agency Anadolu.

"I guess the remaining cases will be finalised by the end of 2018," he said.

The government accuses US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen of orchestrating the failed putsch but Gulen vehemently denies the claims.

Thousands of people including soldiers, police officers and judges have been arrested since then in a crackdown on the Gulen movement which Turkey has dubbed the "Fethullah Terrorist Organisation" or FETO.

The trials are taking place in several cities throughout Turkey.

Tens of thousands of people have been suspended or sacked from the public sector including teachers, police officers and judges under decrees imposed under the state of emergency declared after the failed coup in July two years ago.

The magnitude of the crackdown has been widely criticised by the West but Ankara insists the raids are needed to rid Turkey of what Erdogan describes as the "virus" created by Gulen followers' infiltration into key Turkish institutions.