Istanbul court rules to keep Amnesty’s Turkey chair in jail

Photo showing a silhouette of Salil Shetty, Amnesty International Secretary General, outside the Caglayan courthouse in Istanbul as the trial of eleven human rights activists resumes, including the two top figures with Amnesty International in Turkey, June 21, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 21 June 2018

Istanbul court rules to keep Amnesty’s Turkey chair in jail

ISTANBUL: An Istanbul court on Thursday ruled to keep the chair of Amnesty International’s Turkey branch in jail after over one year behind bars on terror charges, in defiance of complaints by the rights group that the case has no foundation.
Taner Kilic has been held since June 2017 in the western city of Izmir, accused of links to US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen who Turkey says ordered the 2016 failed coup. Gulen denies the accusation.
Kilic is one of dozens of journalists and rights activists caught up in the crackdown launched under a state of emergency after the coup, which critics say has netted not just the suspected plotters but also opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The court ruled “to keep our colleague Taner Kilic, who has already been unjustly imprisoned for one year, in jail,” Amnesty Turkey said in a statement.
“All evidence shows he is innocent... this injustice is unacceptable,” it added. The next hearing in the trial was set for November 7.
Kilic, who spoke to the court via video link from Izmir, was arrested on June 6, 2017, on what Amnesty describes as the “baseless charge” of belonging to a terrorist organization.
Authorities accused Kilic of having an encrypted messaging application on his phone in August 2014 called ByLock, which Ankara claims was especially created for Gulen supporters.
Amnesty has always rejected that Kilic had used Bylock on his phone and said even a report presented at the trial had acknowledged there was no evidence that he did so.
“We are all in a state of shock,” Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, who was present in court, wrote on Twitter after the ruling, describing it as a “sad commentary on the state of (Turkey’s) justice system.”
In a cruel twist, an Istanbul court earlier this year ordered his conditional release but then overturned its decision within 24 hours, and he has been in jail ever since.
If he is found guilty, he could face up to 15 years in jail.
Kilic is on trial with 10 other rights activists including Amnesty’s Turkey director Idil Eser, who were detained on terror charges after holding a workshop on an island off Istanbul.
The other 10 were all released last year, although they remain charged and on trial.


Lebanon’s Aoun vows to tend to economic, financial reforms

Updated 51 sec ago

Lebanon’s Aoun vows to tend to economic, financial reforms

  • Aoun said this aimed “to guarantee political stability in cabinet and outside it and to secure the greatest amount of productivity”
  • He expected “the implementation path” to begin “with the start of October"

BEIRUT: Lebanon is expected to begin implementing in October a set of economic and financial measures agreed by its top leadership that will boost economic growth, President Michel Aoun said on Sunday, vowing that he would to tend to this himself.
He was referring to decisions taken at a top-level meeting earlier this month with the aim of reviving an economy that has been growing slowly for years and is struggling with one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens.
After the Aug. 9 meeting, Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri said agreed steps included finishing the 2020 budget on time, drawing up a plan to start $3.3 billion of projects approved by parliament, full implementation of a power sector reform plan, and laws to fight tax evasion and regulate public tenders.
“I will personally tend to the implementation path of the decisions of the financial and economic meeting” in cooperation with Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and other parties in government, Aoun said.
In written comments to Reuters, Aoun said this aimed “to guarantee political stability in cabinet and outside it and to secure the greatest amount of productivity,” including in the implementation of the 2019 budget and its reforms.
Aoun said he expected “the implementation path” to begin “with the start of October after the conclusion of the current preparations ... which will lead to lifting of the growth rates, reflecting positively on the economic and financial situations.”
After years of backsliding on economic reform, the impetus to act has grown due to economic stagnation and a slowdown in the flow of dollars into Lebanon’s banks from abroad. Lebanon has depended on such flows from its diaspora to finance the current account and the state budget deficits.
Foreign governments and donor institutions last year pledged $11 billion in financing to Lebanon for major infrastructure at the so-called Cedre conference in Paris, on condition that it carries out reforms.
Measures to reduce the budget deficit and reform the power sector, which bleeds public funds while inflicting daily power cuts on Lebanese, are seen as two vital tests of the government’s ability to reform.
The International Monetary Fund said in July this year’s deficit is likely to be well above a targeted 7.6% of national output.
It said the power reform plan and a budget to reduce the deficit were “very welcome first steps” and “further substantial fiscal adjustment and structural reforms” were needed.
Aoun said work was underway to approve the 2020 budget in the constitutional timeframe.
It would include “new, resolute reforms” agreed at the Aug. 9 meeting to reduce the power sector deficit, improve tax collection and fight customs and tax evasion.
Aoun also said frameworks must be put in place for implementing a plan drawn up by management consulting firm McKinsey for revamping the economy and this should coincide with the start of projects outlined at the Cedre conference.