Duvar English 

The influential businessman, philanthropist and civil society activist Osman Kavala has penned a letter from prison, where he is being kept for over 900 days, saying that he can’t keep his optimism.

“At this point, it’s impossible for me to keep my optimism. Seeing the organized efforts to extend my imprisonment, which seem to be taking power from the President, is not the only reason behind that, ” Kavala said.

“What truly leads me to pessimism is the fact that the understanding that doesn’t recognize universal legal norms as binding and that uses laws arbitrarily via stripping them of their legal basis has gained legitimacy in the judiciary,” he said.

Kavala and 15 others were being tried in the case into the Gezi Park protests, which took place in Istanbul’s Taksim following harsh government response to a group of protesters trying to prevent the cutting down of trees for a large development project planned by the government.

Kavala, who was accused of being one of the “managers and organizers” of the protests, was arrested in November 2017 on suspicion of attempting to overthrow the government and the constitutional order through force and violence.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Dec. 10, 2019 that Turkey violated Kavala’s rights, citing the violation of Article 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights, finding that his imprisonment involves a restriction on rights for an improper purpose, while also calling for his immediate release.

Kavala and eight other defendants were on Feb. 18 acquitted by a court outside Istanbul in the Gezi Park trial. Within hours, a new warrant was issued for Kavala as part of the investigation into the failed 2016 coup attempt. The prosecutors accuse him of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” in this case.

He was rearrested on Feb. 19.

An Istanbul court late on March 9 ordered Kavala’s arrest once again, this time on new charges of “political or military espionage” within the framework of an ongoing investigation against the philanthropist.

‘Indictment based on Gülenist plots’

In his letter, Kavala said the indictment that was prepared 16 months after he was arrested was prepared based on a plot created years ago and illegal wiretapping by police officers and prosecutors accused of being followers of the movement of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen – officially called the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).

Kavala has been long known for his anti-Gülenist stance, culminating in 2010 with a press conference he held at a restaurant he owns in Istanbul about the controversial Ergenekon and Balyoz trials, which were later revealed to be sham trials orchestrated by Gülenists in the judiciary and security forces to eliminate hundreds of their opponents by putting them behind bars. 

These trials were launched during the height of the partnership between the Gülenists and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. Then-PM and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had even referred to himself as the prosecutor of the Balyoz trials. 

“We see that the practices, which instrumentalize the legal system and which became systematic with the influence of Gülenists in special courts, are ongoing,” Kavala said.

Kavala said that he did not know how much longer he would remain in prison, but ended on a positive note. 

“In spite of all of this, I believe that there is a serious sensitivity developing in the society concerning law and justice,” Kavala said.