Turkish Court Rules to Free Rights Activist

(CN) — A court in Istanbul has ordered the release of the former Turkey chairman of Amnesty International, the rights group reported Wednesday.

(Via Amnesty International)

Taner Kilic’s release had been augured a day earlier when a Turkish court likewise elected to free two Greek soldiers from their jail in northwest Turkey.

Accused of ties to a network led by Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey blames for a failed coup in 2016, Kilic spent 14 months in prison for terror-related charges.

Kilic’s release from pretrial detention will not, however, foreclose his trial, and Turkey still has several other human rights activists behind bars.

Just a day earlier, Turkish media reported that a court in Izmir rejected an appeal to release American pastor Andrew Brunson.

A higher court would review the appeal of Brunson who denies the espionage and terror-related charges against him.

Such imprisonments have sparked harsh rebukes of Turkey from the United States and European Union, with Turkey’s rule of law of particular concern given the country’s status as an EU candidate.

The United States has escalated sanctions and tariffs against Turkey over the imprisonments, and Turkey attempted to rebut the tension as early as today with the country’s trade minister reporting a hike of tariffs on American cars, tobacco and alcohol among 22 types of produce and goods.

“We have responded to the sanctions with $533 million dollars of extra tax,”

Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan said, as quoted by state-run Anadolu Agency.

Pekcan called the United States “an important trading partner, but it is not our only partner.”

“We have other partners and alternative markets,” she said.

Pekcan said Turkey would continue to “protect the rights of Turkish companies and retaliate” against unjust actions by the United States.

Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s new secretary general praised the report of Kilic’s freedom meanwhile. “We are overjoyed at this news,” Naidoo said. “It has taken us more than a year of campaigning and struggle to get here.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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