Leading Turkish activist back in court, remanded again

2. Turkey
A person walks past the Caglayan Justice Palace courthouse in Istanbul on March 21, 2022. (Photo: AFP)
ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkey’s leading activist Osman Kavala, who at the weekend marked his 1,600th day in prison without conviction, appeared before court Monday for the first time in months, only to have his case adjourned and his detention extended.اضافة اعلان

The philanthropist is accused of financing 2013 anti-government protests and playing a role in a coup plot against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The case has strained Turkey’s ties with the West and become a symbol of Turkey’s sweeping crackdown on government opponents.

Kavala has been detained since 2017 in a huge prison complex on the outskirts of Istanbul, in defiance of a European Court of Human Rights ruling to release him.

Last month, the Council of Europe (COE) launched rare disciplinary action against Turkey over the case, which Ankara denounced as interference.

Kavala, who had snubbed court hearings since October, on Monday attended the latest hearing in Istanbul’s main court Caglayan via a video link from his prison in Silivri — about 60km west of Istanbul.

His presence had built up expectations that the three judges overseeing his trial could be poised to deliver a final verdict.

Many Western observers, including diplomats from France and the US were present in the packed courtroom, an AFP journalist reported.

Erdogan has been trying to salvage battered ties with the European Union in recent months, a bid that intensified after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

‘Completely baseless’

On Monday, the judge accepted the prosecutor’s demand to extend Kavala’s remand and set the next hearing for April 22.

“My ongoing imprisonment is completely baseless,” Kevela told the court on Monday.

He denies the claims against him and has branded the charges “politically motivated”.

If convicted, Kavala faces an aggravated life sentence, which has tougher terms of detention.

On March 4, the prosecutor delivered his final opinion, demanding that Kavala be found guilty of “attempting to overthrow” Erdogan’s government.

Erdogan has openly targeted Kavala and accused him of being an agent of George Soros, a Hungarian-born billionaire US financier and pro-democracy campaigner.

Last October, Kavala said he would not defend himself in court because he lost faith in a fair trial after his case sparked a diplomatic spat.

Erdogan nearly expelled 10 Western envoys, including from the US and major European powers, after they appealed for Kavala’s release last October.

‘Nothing legal’

Tolga Aytore, Kavala’s lawyer, said the indictment was penned with an “enthusiastic political ideology,” adding: “There’s nothing legal there.”

Kavala is on trial with 16 other defendants over the 2013 protests.

Nine out of the other 16 are abroad. The remaining seven were in court on Monday.

Human rights organizations have criticized the case.

“Despite committing no internationally recognized crime, he remains arbitrarily detained on baseless charges in a facility far away from his family,” said Nils Muiznieks, Amnesty International’s Europe director.

Muiznieks accused the prosecutors of seeking but failing “to conjure a crime out of thin air”.

“Each torturous twist in this politically motivated prosecution has further exposed the hollowness of the Turkish justice system,” he added ahead of Monday’s hearing.

Turkey faces infringement proceedings by the COE, the second time the body has taken such action, the first occasion in 2017 against Azerbaijan over its refusal to release a dissident.

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