Turkish culture patron: Kavala has to go to prison for life

As of: 04/25/2022 9:01 p.m

An Istanbul court has sentenced culture promoter Kavala to life imprisonment on charges of attempting to overthrow the government. Kavala was previously imprisoned without a sentence for more than four years, despite international protests.

Turkish cultural promoter Osman Kavala has been sentenced to life imprisonment by an Istanbul court. The three judges issued the verdict against the 64-year-old on charges of attempting to overthrow the government and without the possibility of parole.

Seven co-defendants, who appeared in court at the same time as the publisher and billionaire, were sentenced to 18 years in prison. They were accused of supporting Kavala.

Kavala has been imprisoned in the maximum security prison Sivrili near Istanbul without conviction for more than four years. The businessman was originally arrested in 2017 on charges of financing and organizing the 2013 Gezi protests in Istanbul against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

Arrest 2020 just hours after acquittal

In February 2020, a court acquitted him of this charge, Kavala was released from prison, but arrested again a few hours later – this time in connection with the attempted coup against Erdogan in 2016 and on allegations of espionage.

According to the indictment, the allegations in the proceedings were attempted coup in connection with the Gezi protests of 2013 and “political and military espionage” in connection with the attempted coup of 2016. Kavala was acquitted of the espionage charge. Kavala himself had always denied all allegations.

Diplomatic upheavals between Turkey and the EU

The case brought sharp international criticism to Turkey. For this reason, the country is threatened with expulsion from the Council of Europe. The European Court of Human Rights had already ordered the release of the human rights activist in 2019 and classified the detention as politically motivated.

At the end of 2021, a diplomatic scandal broke out after ten ambassadors in Turkey – including the German one – had written in a letter demanding the release of Kavala. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saw this as inadmissible interference and threatened the diplomats with expulsion.

PEN center appalled

The German authors’ association PEN-Zentrum reacted with horror to the verdict. “This trial is and was a political trial free from the rule of law, with charges that are breathtakingly ridiculous even by Turkish standards,” said PEN President Deniz Yücel.

The federal government sharply criticizes the verdict

Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the verdict “is in blatant contradiction to the rule of law standards and international obligations to which Turkey is committed as a member of the Council of Europe and a candidate for EU membership”. Berlin expects the immediate release of Kavala.

Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth called the Istanbul court’s decision “absurd, unjustified in every respect and obviously politically motivated”. It is about “a mixture of personal revenge on Osman Kavala and a declaration of war on any forms of a possible culture of democracy in Turkey”.

According to Amnesty International, the verdict shows “that the rule of law does not count in Turkey.” The human rights activists described the verdict as “pure arbitrariness”. Kavala was first accused of being allegedly responsible for the Gezi protests in the summer of 2013. “After he was acquitted of those charges in early 2020, prosecutors filed new charges of alleged involvement in the 2016 coup attempt and espionage.”

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