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İstanbul court rejects Kavala’s request for a retrial

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An İstanbul court has for a third time rejected a request for a retrial for jailed businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala, the Birgün daily reported.

Kavala, who was arrested in 2017, was sentenced to life in prison in 2022 for allegedly trying to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government with the Gezi Park protests, which erupted in the summer of 2013 in İstanbul against government plans to destroy a park in the central part of the city.

The İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court’s decision was unanimous, coming one day after its panel of judges was replaced and leading to some optimism about the prospects of a retrial of the businessman.

The former panel of judges rejected Kavala’s request for a retrial on two occasions. The businessman has the right to object to the court’s latest decision.

The Gezi Park trial is seen as a politically motivated trial aimed at punishing Erdoğan’s critics and intimidating others who might protest against the government again.

Hilal Zengin, a member of Kavala’s legal team, on May 3 lodged a third petition with the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court requesting a retrial, arguing that Turkey’s shift to a presidential system has rendered previous charges against Kavala obsolete.

The lawyer said Kavala was sentenced to life in prison for allegedly attempting to overthrow the Turkish government but that a referendum in 2017 changed the country’s parliamentary system of governance to an executive presidency, abolishing the office of the prime minister and the cabinet serving under him, the supposed victims of the crime.

Kavala also demanded a retrial in a written statement released last week on his website through his lawyers.

“It is a requirement of the fundamental principles of law and respect for human rights that cases involving blatant rights violations, convictions without evidence and years of imprisonment of innocent people be retried,” he said, underlining that justice is necessary for all.

The developments followed debates over Kavala’s imprisonment after a rare face-to-face meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Özgür Özel, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on May 2. In a press release after the meeting, Özel said he had discussed Kavala’s situation with the president.

In the March 31 local elections, Özel’s CHP emerged as the leading party for the first time in 47 years, securing 37.7 percent of the vote, maintaining control of key cities and securing substantial gains in other regions, while Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), for the first time in 22 years, came in second, garnering only 35.4 percent of the vote. The CHP’s election success has given it more leverage in issues overlooked by Erdoğan’s AKP like Kavala’s imprisonment.

judgment in Kavala’s case in December 2019 by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found his detention to be arbitrary, politically motivated and in pursuance of an “ulterior motive,” that of silencing him as a human rights defender.

The non-implementation of the 2019 ruling prompted the CoE Committee of Ministers to launch an infringement procedure against Turkey in February 2022. Possible sanctions include European countries initiating investigations into people involved in Kavala’s imprisonment and Turkey losing its voting rights at Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

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