Turkish court rules to keep Kavala in prison in interim decision on Gezi trial

An Istanbul court on Tuesday ruled for the continuation of arrest for Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala in an interim decision on the Gezi trial.

The court also ordered an arrest warrant for journalist and activist İnanç Ekmekçi, left-wing newspaper Birgün reported.

Kavala, along with 15 leading civil society figures, are facing charges of attempting to overthrow the government via the nation-wide Gezi Park protests of 2013.

The government says human rights activist Kavala, the only suspect of the case who remains in prison, was the chief conspirator behind the protests, and that he used his non-profit arts and culture organisation Anadolu Kültür to sponsor sedition.

BBC broadcast journalist Berza Şimşek said supporters of Kavala present at Tuesday’s hearing stood up and applauded the human rights activist in a show of support following the court ruling.

The Gezi protests began as a small demonstration against the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) plans to tear down Gezi Park, the last remaining green space in central Istanbul, and replace it with an Ottoman-style barracks-turned-shopping centre.

The protest grew into the biggest demonstrations yet faced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when footage of police violence against protestors went viral on social media. Hundreds of thousands of people participating in demonstrations across almost all of Turkey’s provinces.

Prosecutors have called for life sentences for the 16 defendants in the case that began six years after the protests.

Kavala has been in prison since 2017, for over 700 days.

Ahval contributor and Associate Professor of Middle East history at St. Lawrence University Howard Eissenstat called Tuesday’s ruling on Kavala another development in a “Kafkasque’’ trial.

“There is no actual evidence - or even an attempt at a coherent effort at a case against him or the other defendants,’’ Eissenstat wrote on Twitter. 

The fourth hearing of the case will be held between Dec. 24-25.