In pre-trial detention for four and a half years, the Turkish businessman and patron Osman Kavala was sentenced by an Istanbul court on Monday, April 25, to life imprisonment without the possibility of remission.
Seven other defendants, architect Mücella Yapici, documentary filmmaker Çigdem Mater, civil rights activist Ali Hakan Altinay, director Mine Özerden, lawyer Can Atalay, academic Tayfun Kahraman and the founder of numerous Turkish NGOs Yigit Ali Emekçi , were sentenced to eighteen years in prison each, for complicity in the same charge. The seven intellectuals, who appeared free, were arrested after the hearing.
After less than an hour of deliberation, the judges of the 13and Criminal Court found the defendants guilty of attempting to “overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey” having fomented the anti-government demonstrations in Gezi Park, Istanbul, in the spring of 2013.
Hardly repressed, at the cost of eight deaths, this peaceful and spontaneous movement, mainly carried by the youth, was the first great outpouring of protest against Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then Prime Minister. At the time, Mr. Kavala, known for his cultural and charitable activities, had tried to mediate between the demonstrators and the authorities.
Relentlessness of the authorities
It is hard to believe that it was this mediation that, four years later, earned him his arrest and then incarceration in the high security prison of Silivri, on the outskirts of Istanbul. And the relentlessness of the authorities towards him has never weakened. Throughout his detention, the patron has not seen any investigating magistrate, only police officers.
Prosecutors took almost two years to draw up the indictment, a document sewn with white thread, where Mr. Kavala’s plane tickets are considered as evidence for the prosecution, while anonymous witnesses testify to his involvement in a popular revolt presented as originating from abroad. So many accusations denied by the philanthropist. Speaking Monday by videoconference from his prison, he denounced a “judicial assassination” based on “conspiracy theories”.
Acquitted for lack of evidence in February 2020, the man was arrested a few hours later without having been able to leave the enclosure of his prison, while the three magistrates who had pronounced his acquittal – Galip Mehmet Perk, Ahmet Tarik Çiftçioglu and Talip Ergen – were subject to disciplinary sanctions.
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