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Court orders continued detention of activist Kavala at first hearing of coup-related trial

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An İstanbul court has ruled at the start of a new trial for a continuation of the imprisonment of prominent businessman and human rights activist Osman Kavala on charges related to a failed 2016 coup in Turkey.

The İstanbul 36th High Criminal Court on Friday announced its decision in the first hearing of the coup-related trial of Kavala, who has been in custody for over a thousand days on what many say are politically motivated charges.

Kavala, who had been behind bars since October 18, 2017, was acquitted of charges of attempting to overthrow the state through involvement in the 2013 nationwide Gezi Park protests in mid-February.

He was rearrested the same day on charges related to the 2016 abortive putsch in Turkey in a move described by his lawyers as a tactic to circumvent a European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruling, which said on December 10, 2019 that the long pre-trial detention of Kavala was a violation of his rights.

Kavala is currently on trial for charges that include “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” and “obtaining confidential information of the state for political or military espionage.”

“None of the charges in this indictment are based on any facts, evidence or objective evaluation of a concrete criminal act,” the 63-year-old activist on Friday told a crowded courtroom via the Audio and Visual Information System (SEGBİS).

The allegations “are in stark contrast to my world view, ethical values and the goals of the projects carried out by the civil society organizations under my supervision,” he added.

Among those who attended the hearing were Kavala’s wife, attorneys Köksal Bayraktar, Tolga Aytöre and Reha Boduroğlu amd representatives from the consulates general of Sweden, Germany, Denmark and the US in İstanbul as well as a number of opposition politicians and rights groups.

Although pledges for reform made by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan prompted speculation that Kavala might be released, the president last month stated that he could never defend the philanthropist, calling him the sponsor of the Gezi Park protests in 2013, despite the courts clearing him of that accusation.

The new indictment accuses Kavala of collaborating with Henri Barkey, a prominent Turkey scholar in the United States who is accused of links to the Gülen movement, which is inspired by the teachings of Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen.

Ankara labels the faith-based group as a terrorist organization and accuses them of orchestrating the attempted coup in 2016 that claimed the lives of over 200 people.

Although both Gülen and the members of his movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch and any terrorist activity, the Turkish government has arrested more than 95,000 people due to alleged links to the group as part of a massive crackdown launched against them following the coup attempt.

The next hearing of Kavala’s trial will be held on February 5, 2021.

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