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Turkish court orders to keep Kavala in jail after over 700 days behind bars

An Istanbul court has ordered the continued pre-trial detention of renowned businessman, philanthropist, and human rights activist Osman Kavala in an interim decision on the third hearing of the Gezi Park trial, Evrensel daily reported on Tuesday.

Along with 15 other leading civil society figures including writers and actors, Kavala, who is the only suspect in the case still behind bars, is accused of attempting to topple Turkey’s government via the nation-wide Gezi Park protests of 2013.

The Istanbul 30th Heavy Penal Court in Silivri on Tuesday ruled for the arrest of Kavala to continue due to charges against him raising the “suspicion of escape.”

He has been in prison for more than 700 days since November 2017

The Turkish government claims that he was the chief conspirator behind the protests using his non-profit arts and culture organization Anadolu Kultur to financially support the uprising.

In the summer of 2013, the Gezi protests began as a small demonstration to stop the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) plans to destroy Gezi Park, the last remaining green space in central Istanbul and replace it with a shopping center.

The demonstration turned into a nationwide revolt as a result of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s uncompromising stance and an excessive police crackdown on protesters.

Hundreds of thousands of people across Turkey took part in the protests after footage of police brutality against demonstrators went viral on social media.

As part of the case that began six years after the protests in 2013, the prosecutors have called for life sentences for all of the 16 defendants.

“The accusations I face are based on opinions and assumptions. There is no finding in the indictment showing that I funded the Gezi events. There is no finding showing that I perceived Gezi as an uprising against the government, either,” Kavala said in his defense during Tuesday’s hearing.

The businessman also underlined that his being kept in custody for so long so the court can find evidence is an “unlawful, discriminatory practice which has turned into punishment in itself.”

“I demand that the court bring an end to this unlawful, discriminatory practice,” he added.

Amnesty international’s Senior Campaigner on Turkey Milena Buyum described Tuesday’s ruling as “mean and cruel” and “a shameful, bitterly disappointing outcome, unexplainable when considering the 3rd hearing exposed once more how utterly baseless the accusations [against Kavala] are.”

“Another bleak day at Silivri courthouse. No sign of justice,”  Emma Sinclair-Webb, Turkey director of Human Rights Watch, also commented on the decision to keep Kavala behind bars.

“We all witness a judicial process with no justice or honesty,” the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Sezgin Tanrikulu told Deutsche Welle (DW) Turkish service after the hearing.

Veli Agbaba, deputy chair of the main opposition CHP, argued in a tweet that the ruling for Kavala’s continued detention is aimed at threatening the dissidents in Turkey “who do not give up on telling the truth.”

Kavala’s detention will continue until December 24-25, when the fourth hearing of the case will be held.

Court releases Gezi defendant Aksakoglu, Kavala remains in prison

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