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Turkey, Osman Kavala rejects the accusations but remains in prison

his detention is "continued cruel treatment"

Turkish activist Osman Kavala, since November 1, 2017 in Silivri High Security Prison

Turkish activist Osman Kavala, since November 1, 2017 in Silivri High Security Prison

Osman Kavala, Turkish publisher and philanthropist, who has been detained for more than three years, will remain in prison on the decision of an Istanbul court, which on 18 December rejected his request for release.

In the first hearing of the trial against him for attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and obtaining confidential information of the state for political or military espionage, Kavala said that none of the charges are based on facts, evidence or objective assessments of a concrete criminal act. "The fact of having been detained for years on the basis of such absurd theses is not just a simple violation of rights, it has become a continued cruel treatment."

Speaking via video link from the Silivri maximum security prison, where many Turkish journalists, lawyers and intellectuals are held, accused of plotting against the state, Kavala said: these allegations are in stark contrast to my worldview, ethical values and the goals of the projects carried out by the civil society organizations under my supervision. In the absence of concrete evidence, each allegation is presented as a justification to another, and the accusations were intertwined to create the impression that I am guilty".

Among the institutions created by Kavala there is the non-profit organization Anadolu Kültür, founded in 2002 to promote art and culture in Turkey and support local initiatives even in the poorest and most remote areas of the country, to highlight cultural diversity and strengthen international collaborations, in the belief that art and civil culture contribute to dialogue and peace.

According to the indictment, however, Anadolu Kültür and the other activities carried out by Kavala were financed by George Soros, who through the Open Society Foundation "encourages people to commit themselves for social purposes and then exploits them by pushing them to act against governments to provoke mass riots ", the prosecutor said.

The 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul then denied the release and set a new hearing in the trial for February 5, 2021.

Kavala was arrested in October 2017 for "trying to change the constitutional order and overthrow the government" and for being the alleged leader and financier of the Gezi Park protest, that broke out in Istanbul in 2013. On February 18 this year, the court ruled the acquittal of all 16 accused and the release of Kavala, the only one in detention, but he was arrested again a few hours later with the new charge for "political or military espionage" and complicity with the terrorist organization of Fetullah Gülen (FETÖ) related to the failed coup in 2016.

The human rights activist has already served almost 1,150 days in prison despite the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) of May 2020, which ordered his release for the groundlessness of the charges against him.

In his defense, the international campaign ("Free Osman Kavala") is underway, joined, among others, by Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and Amnesty International (AI) which, on the occasion of the first court hearing, intervened again. "Osman Kavala is facing unsubstantiated and politically motivated accusations in a criminal case that is part of a broader attempt by the Turkish authorities to silence independent civil society. Kavala should not have spent a single minute behind bars, let alone more than three years in pre-detention, ”said Nils Muižniek, AI director for Europe.

The penalty to which Kavala could be sentenced for attempting to overthrow Turkey's constitutional order (under Turkish Penal Code article 309) is an "aggravated" life sentence", which includes severe restrictions on movement in prison or prolonged isolation and no prospect of early release. A treatment considered a violation of the absolute prohibition of torture by the European Court of Human Rights.

23 December 2020

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