Turkish court rules to keep human rights activist Kavala in jail

An Istanbul court on Tuesday rejected the request to release businessman and human rights defender Osman Kavala, who stands accused of violating the constitutional order by masterminding the Gezi protests.

Some opposition parties’ MPs and the representatives from the consulates of Sweden, the Netherland, and Italy were present to observe the proceedings.

Kavala, who is the only suspect in the case still behind bars, appeared in court along with eight other leading civil society figures, for the sixth hearing of the Gezi trials.

The court’s decision to keep Kavala in prison was criticized by many as the Istanbul court did not abide by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)’s December 10 ruling that said Kavala must be released immediately.

The court on 24 December refused to accede to the demands of Kavala’s legal team for him to be released, decision, on the grounds that the Strasbourg court’s ruling had not yet reached the Turkish court.

However, according to the Birgun news portal, the Ministry of Justice had sent the ECHR ruling to the court a day before the December 24 hearing.

Kavala’s lawyers filed a demand for the judge to recuse himself after the court ruled against their request to question the witness who made statements against Kavala.

However, the court declined to take account of recusal demand, Birgun news said.

All the defendants’ lawyers left the courtroom to protest the court’s decision, which was welcomed by the audience’s enthusiastic applauds, the Gazete Duvar news portal reported.

The court gave Kavala the floor if he had anything to say about the witness statement, and he said, “Witness testimony was not taken in line with the law. I have not had any chance to ask him questions,” Birgun quoted him as saying.

Kavala further noted regarding his demand for release, “There is no evidence that I financed an uprising against the government. All my actions took place within the boundaries of my legal rights.”

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

The Gezi protests were triggered by Erdogan’s governing AK Party’s attempt to raze Istanbul’s central Gezi Park to build a shopping mall.

The protests rapidly spread to other cities over what critics described as the president’s increasingly authoritarian rule in 2013.

Erdogan slammed the Gezi protests as a foreign-backed plot to bring down the government and launched a crackdown against the alleged plotters of the demonstrations. In 2018 Erdogan pointed to George Soros, a Hungarian-American investor, as being the force behind Kavala, accusing him of masterminding the Gezi protests against his rule.

Kavala was arrested in 2017 and has been in Silivri prison ever since.

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