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Turkey emergency laws create 'climate of fear': Amnesty

© AFP/File | Turkey's main opposition party staged nationwide rallies last week to protest the extension of the state of emergency

ANKARA (AFP) - 

Amnesty International on Thursday accused the Turkish government of creating a "chilling climate of fear" across society and curtailing the work of human rights activists since a failed 2016 coup.

The rights group said freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial have been "decimated" under the state of emergency introduced five days after the attempted putsch on July 15, 2016.

More than 1,300 associations and foundations have been shut down under the measures.

In addition, more than 140,000 public sector employees have been sacked or suspended including judges over alleged links to putschists or Kurdish militants.

Meanwhile, some 50,000 people have been taken into custody on terror charges.

Last week parliament approved the seventh extension of the emergency laws which Amnesty said had undermined the country's "once vibrant independent civil society".

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) staged nationwide rallies to protest the extension, with demonstrators in Istanbul shouting "No to emergency rule" and "Rights, law and justice".

Ankara insists that it faces multiple terror threats and that the measures do not affect citizens' everyday lives.

In a report titled "Weathering the storm: Defending human rights in Turkey?s climate of fear", Amnesty lambasted the authorities' attacks on rights activists and their "abusive" use of the criminal justice system.

"A chilling climate of fear is sweeping across Turkish society," the report said.

The group cited examples of individuals it believes were being targeted and unfairly imprisoned including that of civil society activist Osman Kavala, who has been in prison since October.

Amnesty has come under pressure itself since Taner Kilic, then the group's chairman in Turkey, was taken into custody last June.

Kilic denies charges of belonging to the movement led by US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of ordering the 2016 coup bid.

"Under the cloak of the state of emergency, Turkish authorities have deliberately and methodically set about dismantling civil society, locking up human rights defenders, shutting down organisations and creating a suffocating climate of fear," Amnesty's Europe director, Gauri van Gulik, said in a statement.

Amnesty also highlighted "unfair" restrictions on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) events in Turkey, with a ban in effect in the capital Ankara since November.

"The blanket bans on activities threaten the very existence of these organisations and reverse these recent progressive steps to counter prevailing homophobia and transphobia," Amnesty wrote.

© 2018 AFP