Amnesty says Turkey chair released from Izmir jail

Activists in Berlin staged a protest last June against the detention of Amnesty International's Turkey head, Taner Kilic

An Istanbul court on Wednesday ordered the release of Amnesty International's Turkey chair who has spent more than a year in jail over alleged links to a 2016 failed coup, the rights group said.

First detained in June 2017, Taner Kilic was released a few hours after the court ruling.

"Ok now we can start to celebrate. Taner really is free!" Amnesty's Turkey researcher Andrew Gardner said on Twitter, sharing a picture of Kilic reuniting with his family.

Kilic, who was being held in the western city of Izmir, is accused of links to US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen who Turkey says ordered the 2016 coup against President Tayyip Recep Erdogan.

Gulen denies the accusation.

"This time, #TanerKilic is actually free and at long last reunited with his family," said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International's new Secretary General.

"A bittersweet moment after 14 months of unjust detention but we share their tears and their joy," he said, posting an emotional picture of Kilic's hugging his family after release.

The release is set to be conditional, with the charges still standing and Kilic on trial.

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 a wide array of opponents of Erdogan.

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

Authorities accused Kilic of having an encrypted messaging application on his phone 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 his trial had acknowledged there was no evidence that he did so.

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.

He could face up to 15 years in jail if found guilty.

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 also remain charged and on trial.