Published: Thu, October 26, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

German activist Peter Steudtner released from Turkish jail

Eight human rights activists, including German citizen Peter Steudtner and Amnesty International's Turkey chief Idil Eser, were released from prison in Turkey on bail Thursday, German media reported.

Two of the activists were released on bail prior to the start of Wednesday's trial.

"I think we're all more than relieved", a tearful Steudtner told reporters after he walked out of the Silivri prison, outside of Istanbul, a few hours later. We feel really happy about what happened. "To speak of me, I am really grateful and we are really grateful for everybody who supported us legally, diplomatically and for solidarity", said Steudtner.

"That is an encouraging signal, a first step", Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement, adding that many Germans remained imprisoned in Turkey for no clear reason. "Wherever you are, however you did it, you got us out, thank you very much".

"There are still a lot of friends, journalists who are in jail unfairly".

"These politically-motivated prosecutions are an attempt to silence critical voices within Turkey but have only served to highlight the importance of human rights and those who dedicate their lives to defending them".

Eser, the local Amnesty director, had earlier told the court that she had been arrested for doing her job.

Ms Eser and nine other defendants were arrested in July as they held a human rights workshop on an island near Istanbul.

The two foreigners are free to leave the country, a defense lawyer told Agence France-Presse.

Kilic was detained in June and his case has been merged with that of the other 10 activists as prosecutors claimed he was aware of preparations for the workshop.

The Turkish government had accused the group of "aiding armed terrorist organizations" through civil society actions in Turkey. Kilic appeared via video link from prison. Turkey has taken a no-tolerance attitude to any individuals who may have been involved with US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for orchestrating the abortive putsch.

"Today, finally, we celebrate that our friends and colleagues can go back with their loved ones and can sleep in their own beds for the first time in nearly four months", said Amnesty's secretary general, Salil Shetty.

"I don't understand how I can be associated with three different terrorist organizations by having attended a workshop", she said. Peter Steudtner and other human rights activists are free.

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