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Jailed businessman Kavala seeks justice ministry’s intervention for a retrial

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After an İstanbul court rejected jailed businessman Osman Kavala’s third request for a retrial earlier this week, one of his lawyers petitioned the justice ministry, asking it to assert its authority to instruct the top appeals court to review its decision, which could lead to a retrial, Turkish media outlets 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.

His sentence, along with those of four other defendants in the trial, was upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals in September 2023.

Kavala is seeking a retrial due to what many say was the politically motivated nature of the Gezi Park trial.

Hilal Zengin, a lawyer from Kavala’s legal team, petitioned the justice ministry based on Article 309 of the Turkish Code of Criminal Procedure (CMK). This article, which permits “overturning for the sake of the law,” allows the ministry to take the initiative in cases in which the Supreme Court of Appeals or other another appeals court has already made its decision and ask them to review their verdict if there were irregularities during the trial.

The ministry can take action on its own or upon a request from the defendant’s family or their lawyers, who are expected to back up their claims of the alleged irregularities in their petition.

If the Supreme Court of Appeals accepts the ministry’s request to review the case, it can either stand by its previous ruling or reverse it, which could lead to a retrial.

The lawyer also objected to the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court’s decision rejecting a request for a retrial for Kavala at a higher court, the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court.

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.

Zengin lodged a third petition with the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court on May 3 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.

The Gezi Park protests in 2013 erupted over government plans to demolish Gezi Park in Taksim. They quickly turned into mass anti-government demonstrations that were violently suppressed by the government, leading to the death of 11 protestors due to the use of disproportionate force by the police.

Kavala and others were convicted of attempting to overthrow the Turkish government for their alleged role in the protests.

The ruling sparked international condemnation as well as protests across Turkey for being politically motivated.

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