Turkey activists face trial next week under terror charges
ISTANBUL - Eleven human rights activists, including the two top figures with Amnesty International in Turkey, will go on trial in Istanbul next week on hugely controversial terror charges, state media said Tuesday.
All bar one of the 11 activists -- who include two foreigners -- have been behind bars since a police raid in July on a workshop run by Amnesty on a popular island off Istanbul. They face up to 15 years in jail if convicted.
The trial will begin at the main Istanbul court on October 25 after an indictment prepared by prosecutors was approved, state-run Anadolu news agency said.
The accused include the director of Amnesty Turkey Idil Eser, who was detained in the raid by police on the workshop on the island of Buyukada.
Also going on trial is Amnesty's Turkey chair Taner Kilic, who was detained in June and whose case has been merged with that of the other 10 activists.
He has been charged with membership of an armed terror group while the others are charged with "aiding" an armed terror group.
In the indictment, the activists are accused of seeking to create "chaos in society" similar to the anti-government protests that rocked Turkey in the summer of 2013.
The charges raised concerns over freedom of expression in Turkey under the state of emergency imposed after last year's failed coup aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Ankara blamed the coup attempt on the exiled Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, who denies the accusations.
Amnesty has slammed the charges as "absurd and trumped up".
It argues they include "outlandish claims" that standard human rights activities such as appealing to stop the sale of tear gas were carried out on behalf of terrorist organisations.
The two foreigners -- German Peter Steudtner and Swede Ali Gharavi -- were leading a digital information workshop on Buyukada and have been under arrest since the July raid.
Steudtner's detention has stoked tensions in particular with Berlin and German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has described the terror charges as "incomprehensible".
Sweden this month summoned Turkey's ambassador over the case of Gharavi, saying it was "worried" about the accusations against him.
The suspects are accused of links to outlawed groups including the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Gulen's organisation and the far-left Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C).