ISTANBUL — A well known Turkish philanthropist went on trial once more in Istanbul on Friday, his third prosecution in 4 years of detention, in a mass continuing that has come to reveal the intense lengths the Turkish authorities is prepared to take to maintain its opponents behind bars.
In a extremely contested transfer, prosecutors merged the instances in opposition to three teams of defendants, most of whom have already been acquitted of any expenses, to ascertain a brand new case in opposition to 52 individuals. The philanthropist, Osman Kavala, is the most effective identified among the many group, which incorporates soccer followers, environmentalists and artists who took half within the Taksim Sq. protests of 2013.
Mr. Kavala made an announcement by video hyperlink from Silivri Jail, exterior Istanbul, the place he has been held principally in solitary confinement for the previous 4 years. A panel of judges ordered him to be additional remanded in custody.
Charged with attempting to overthrow the federal government and undermine the Structure by violence, the entire defendants have lengthy insisted they’re harmless. The group additionally consists of an American tutorial, Henry Barkey, who’s accused of being in contact with Mr. Kavala on the time of an tried coup in 2016. Mr. Barkey has denied any involvement within the occasion.
Amnesty Worldwide described the merging of the instances as “farcical” and a “surprising disregard for honest trial procedures.”
For President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Taksim Sq. protests, a peaceable motion meant to avoid wasting a park from being changed by a shopping center, have come to characterize the primary of a sequence of challenges to his management. The demonstrations unfold throughout the nation and had been for a lot of youthful activists a formative occasion, earlier than the police moved in and forcibly crushed them.
But Mr. Erdogan usually refers back to the Gezi protests, as they’re identified in Turkey after the title of the park, as the primary coup try in opposition to him. Beneath this narrative, anticorruption raids in opposition to his officers later that 12 months, and the coup attempt against him in July 2016, had been a continuation of foreign-inspired, violent efforts to overthrow his authorities.
His unrelenting pursuit of these concerned within the protests, and specifically with Mr. Kavala, so a few years later has, nevertheless, mystified many since Mr. Kavala was not a political determine and his philanthropy work centered on earthquake reconstruction and cultural and inventive packages for minorities.
Mr. Kavala was arrested in 2017, and charged and later acquitted of orchestrating and financing the protests by channeling cash from the billionaire investor George Soros to the protesters, in addition to taking part within the 2016 coup try. After his acquittal, he was charged with espionage based mostly on the identical proof. (Mr. Erdogan has accused Mr. Soros of supporting Mr. Kavala in financing “terrorists” through the protests.)
“This case virtually appears to be a vendetta at this level,” stated Asli Aydintasbas, a senior fellow on the European Council on Overseas Relations. “What Osman has been going by is irrational and unnecessarily merciless.”
In his statement to the court, Mr. Kavala stated the twists and turns in his prosecution had been a sign of political interference aimed toward prolonging his imprisonment. The aim, he stated, was to maintain alive the notion of his guilt and to criminalize the Gezi protests as an act of rebel, “though the proof factors on the contrary.”
“What’s placing concerning the expenses introduced in opposition to me shouldn’t be merely the truth that they aren’t based mostly on any proof,” he stated. “They’re allegations of a incredible nature based mostly on conspiracy theories overstepping the bounds of cause.”
Different defendants raised comparable complaints.
“I’ve been tried twice underneath the identical indictment,” stated one, Mucella Yapici, a number one member of the Taksim Solidarity motion, which was fashioned on the time of the protests. “I used to be acquitted, and my acquittal was permitted. Twice. I reject this case, by cause, ethics and conscience,” she stated in court docket in comments a support group relayed on Twitter.
A panel of three judges rejected legal professionals’ requests to separate the three instances, main one group of legal professionals to stroll out.
“Right here, the referee of the sport is attempting to attain a aim,” stated Riza Kocal, a lawyer for the defendants belonging to Carsi, a fan group of the Besiktas soccer membership in Istanbul. “The becoming a member of of instances is baseless. Every file needs to be despatched to its personal court docket.”
Whilst Mr. Erdogan, who faces more and more extreme financial and political challenges at house, has sought to restore relations with america and Europe, he has repeatedly rejected calls to enhance Turkey’s poor document on justice or to launch distinguished political prisoners like Mr. Kavala.
Turkey has ignored a number of choices by the European Courtroom of Human Rights urgent for the discharge of detainees like Mr. Kavala. That has prompted human rights organizations to induce the committee of ministers who oversee the court docket to start infringement proceedings in opposition to Turkey, a uncommon motion that might result in its suspension from the court docket.
“The Turkish courts and prosecutors have engaged in a sequence of techniques to bypass the authority of the E.C.H.R. and the Council of Europe,” Aisling Reidy, senior authorized adviser at Human Rights Watch, stated in an announcement on the time. “They’ve issued repeated sham launch orders, initiated a number of legal proceedings on the identical info, repeatedly issued detention choices whereas adopting unwarranted procedural choices to lengthen detention.”
The Kavala affair has accomplished quite a lot of injury to Turkey’s standing in america Congress and throughout Europe, Ms. Aydintasbas stated. “A rational actor would have let Kavala go way back, realizing that will purchase Turkey some good will on the lowest level of its relations with the West.”
“I feel at this level it’s extra of a systemic obsession than the rest,” she added. “Everybody is aware of Osman, as a civil society member, shouldn’t be a political menace to anybody. He didn’t arrange Gezi or the coup and I doubt anybody truly believes that.”
The subsequent listening to shall be on Nov. 26, the choose stated.