Osman Kavala sentenced to life in prison

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A Turkish court sentenced jailed businessperson Osman Kavala to life in prison on Monday, finding him guilty of attempting to overthrow the government by financing 2013 nationwide protests.

Kavala, 64, has been in jail for 4-1/2 years and denies the charges he and 15 others face over the Gezi Park protests, which began as small demonstrations in Istanbul and transformed into nationwide riots, in which eight protesters were killed.

The court also sentenced several others to 18 years in jail for aiding an attempt to overthrow the government. The court said it decided to acquit Kavala of espionage charge due to lack of evidence.

Kavala was detained on Oct. 18, 2017, and faced charges over the 2013 Gezi Park protests. He was acquitted of all charges in February 2020, but an appeals court overturned this verdict later.

He was also accused of involvement in the 2016 defeated coup orchestrated by the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) in Turkey and was remanded in custody on charges of spying.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) called for Kavala’s release in late 2019 and ruled his detention serves to silence him.

But Turkish courts have not freed Kavala and Ankara now faces being suspended from the Council of Europe, a human rights watchdog, after “infringement proceedings” were launched due to his continued detention, which Ankara denounced as interference.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan subsequently said when asked about the decision that Turkey will not respect the Council of Europe if it does not respect Turkish courts.

Turkey urged the Council of Europe not to interfere in the country’s independent judiciary and to be impartial toward the country in response to the decision regarding the Kavala case.

Embassies of Ankara’s Western allies, including the United States and Germany, also echoed the ECtHR call for Kavala’s release last year.

Ankara nearly expelled 10 Western countries’ envoys, including the United States and major European powers, after they made an appeal for Kavala’s release last October.

The Foreign Ministry summoned the ambassadors of these countries, accusing them of meddling in the Turkish judiciary, while President Erdoğan announced he had instructed Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu to declare the 10 ambassadors as persona non grata. However, the embassies took a step back, preventing the crisis from escalating further.

The diplomatic spat was resolved after the U.S. and several of the other countries issued statements saying they respected the United Nations convention requiring diplomats to not interfere in the host country’s domestic affairs.

Kavala denies the claims and has branded the charges in the indictment as “politically motivated.”

Kavala’s acquittal along with eight others in the Gezi trial was overturned last year and the case was combined with the other charges against him.

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