Turkish court rejects demand for release of Osman Kavala, sets next hearing for Feb 5

An Istanbul court on Dec. 18 rejected an appeal by philanthropist and businessman Osman Kavala and said he had to remain in pre-trial detention. The court also ruled that the next hearing of the second trial against Kavala will be held on Feb. 5, 2021. Earlier, Kavala told the court that the fresh indictment against him "has no basis in reality" and "includes the most extreme examples of unfounded, non-substantiated, and illogical charges."

Duvar English 

An Istanbul court on Dec. 18 rejected a demand for the release of philanthropist and businessman Osman Kavala and ruled for the next hearing of the trial to be held on Feb. 5, 2021.

The first hearing of the second trial against Kavala took place on Dec. 18 at the Istanbul 36th Heavy Penal Court.

In his opening speech at the court, Kavala rejected the accusations of "espionage" and "attempting to overthrow the constitutional order," saying the case against him lacks concrete evidence and that he has always stood against coups. 

Kavala has been in prison in Turkey for more than three years without a conviction. His case has drawn condemnation from around the world, with several rights groups calling for his immediate release.

He has remained in prison despite being acquitted in February in connection with 2013 Gezi Park protests. He was re-arrested before he could leave the courtroom however, on fresh charges of espionage and attempting to overthrow the constitutional order in the failed 2016 coup.

"None of the accusations in this [new] indictment are based on concrete evidence. These accusations are completely contrary to the works for which I am responsible. Evidence taken from the Gezi [Park] trial indictment have been used as if they are real," Kavala told the court by video link from prison.

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 said.

The renowned activist pointed out that the Gezi Park file has been used as a reference in the new indictment. He said that although all defendants, including himself, have been acquitted in the Gezi Park trial, several accusations included in the second indictment were replicated from the Gezi Park file. 

"Although MASAK [Financial Crimes Investigation Board] reports proved otherwise, it has been alleged [in the new indictment] that I have financed the Gezi [Park protest]. And an acquittal decision came out of the Gezi trial which had initially included these allegations," Kavala said. 

Kavala said the new indictment presents his travel to Germany, which coincidentally happened at the same as Adil Öksüz’s travel to the United States, as "evidence" of coup charges.

The Turkish government says Öksüz was the Gülen movement’s Air Force “imam,” meaning that he was the contact person between those belonging to the movement inside the Turkish Air Force and the movement’s imams in other institutions.

US academic Henri Barkey is also being tried in absentia alongside Kavala in the case. Prosecutors likewise accuse Barkey of being a foreign agent and plotting the 2016 failed coup attempt. Barkey in the past referred to charges as absurd and ludicrous.

In the new indictment, prosecutors have accused Kavala of "being in intense contact with" Barkey. Kavala once again on Dec. 18 denied these accusations, saying that he only came across with Barkey at a couple of conferences. 

The main argument in the new indictment is that the mobile phones of both Kavala and Barkey transmitted signals coming from the base stations at the same timeslot, which it said “proves” the two men were at “the same location” having a meeting.

Kavala slammed these accusations as "illogical," saying that the indictment has "no basis in reality."

"In the indictment, the allegation that I had been in close contact with Henri Barkey is used as the basis of the charges concerning both my participation in the organization of the 15 July coup attempt and my involvement in acts of espionage. There is no evidence shown that I had passed on any information or document to Henri Barkey and no evidence showing that I had been in touch with him," he said. 

"I hope this indictment, which includes the most extreme examples of unfounded, non-substantiated, and illogical charges leading to our citizens’ deprivation of their freedom, will be the last one of its kind," Kavala said. 

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled last year that Kavala should be released since the evidence did not back up the charges. This month, the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers also called for his release.

In October, the Turkish court lifted Kavala's arrest warrant related to the constitutional order charge but kept him jailed due to the espionage charge.

Ahead of Dec. 18 hearing, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other groups called for Kavala's release.

"Implement the binding European Court of Human Rights decision. Drop the baseless charges against him," Milena Buyum, Amnesty's Turkey campaigner, said on Twitter.