Turkish activist Osman Kavala sentenced to life for protests

ISTANBUL – A Turkish court on Monday sentenced a prominent Turkish philanthropist for trying to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and sentenced him to life in prison without parole in a case condemned by human rights organizations and has heightened tensions with the West.

In a very crowded and enclosed courtroom in Istanbul, the man, Osman Kavala, a well-known activist, was convicted of charges related to popular protests in 2013 against Mr. Erdogan, whom the president still sees as one of the most significant challenges to his power.

The court also sentenced seven other defendants to 18 years in prison for aiding and abetting an attempt to overthrow the government and ordering them to be arrested immediately. Among the seven is Mucella Yapici, a renowned architect and urban rights activist.

The verdict caused uproar and tears in the courtroom among the accused’s family members and friends.

“We want to stay robust,” said Tayfun Kahraman, a city planner who is among the seven defendants. “We win in the end.” His words made the audience sing “We will win.”

The defendants were allowed to say goodbye to their loved ones, but they were not allowed to leave the courtroom.

“I feel outraged by the court ruling and the climate we live in,” said Cansu Yapici, daughter of Ms. Yapici. “This judgment has nothing to do with law.”

The case, which involved more than a dozen people, was among the most prominent in the president’s broader intervention against the opposition following a coup attempt six years ago. The defendants can appeal.

“Today we have witnessed a parody of justice of spectacular proportions,” Nils Muižnieks, Amnesty International’s European Director, said in a written statement.

Sir. Kavala and other defendants were charged and later acquitted, but were brought before the court again despite the absence of new evidence, according to their lawyers. Prosecutors said Mr Kavala orchestrated and funded the protests with money from billionaire investor George Soros.

Sir. Erdogan has also said that Mr. Kavala funded “terrorists” and participated in the coup attempt in 2016. Mr. Kavala has denied all charges.

The aggravated life sentence cannot be explained for legal reasons, Mr Kavala told the court in his final remarks before the verdict was announced. “It’s an assassination attempt using the judiciary,” he said.

Nine other defendants were charged, but the court refused to pass judgment on them because they were not in custody. One of them, Henri Barkey, an American academic, is accused of being in contact with Mr. Kavala at the time of the failed coup, an event Mr. Barkey has denied any involvement in.

A panel of three judges handed down the verdict by a majority vote, with one judge voting in favor of dismissing all defendants and releasing Mr Kavala.

A 64-year-old businessman, Mr Kavala, is a well-known figure in Turkish civil society. Among his more prominent work to cultivate the intellectual and bourgeois landscape of Turkey was the foundation of Anadolu Culture, an organization that aims to provide broader access to the artistic and cultural heritage of ethnic and religious minority groups.

The refusal to release Mr Kavala and the decision to renew his prosecution led the Council of Europe, the continent’s most important human rights institution, to officially initiate infringement proceedings against Turkey in February.

Turkey, which has been a member of the Council since 1950, is obliged to accept the authority of the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled that Mr Kavala was detained illegally. Violation is a rare act that could lead to Turkey’s suspension from the Council, which oversees the court.

Turkey has said the Council of Europe’s process was “prejudiced and politically motivated.” Legal professionals have said that many of the judges in Turkey are afraid to run on edge with the government after extensive purges after the coup.

The government’s persecution of Mr Kavala and the other defendants appeared to be motivated by their civil society work. All the convicts were members of groups involved in Taksim Solidarity, a group campaigning to protect a small park called Gezi, which was at the heart of the 2013 protests.

Ms. Yapici, for example, was among the leading figures in Taksim Solidarity and has been one of the loudest critics of the construction boom that Mr. Erdogan’s party has relied on promoting economic growth over the past decade.

Erdogan’s regime has become more and more authoritarian since the failed but deadly coup in 2016. Thousands of people have been arrested, many more were removed from their public jobs, and others felt they had no choice but to leave the country before they were obtained. in the President’s drawing.

Sir. Erdogan pushed through a constitutional referendum in 2017 that cemented some of his expanded authority and established a form of presidential system that gave him extensive powers.

For the president, the protests in 2013 have come to represent one of a number of serious challenges for his leadership. He continues to downplay the demonstrations, which he considers a foreign-inspired coup attempt against him.

Publicly known as the Gezi protests after the park, they were meant to save, the demonstrations spread quickly to almost the entire country and attracted mostly young people with different backgrounds. Mr. Erdogan wanted to turn the park in the heart of Istanbul into a shopping mall, but the project has since been shelved.

In his eyes, local groups instigated by foreign entities continued to try to undermine him after the park prostheses and pushed for anti-corruption raids against his allies later that year, eventually leading to the July 2016 coup attempt.

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