Turkish court confirms jailing of key civil society figure

A Turkish court confirmed the arrest on Wednesday of Turkish businessman and civil society figure Osman Kavala, dubbed “the Red Soros” by the country’s pro-government media.

Kavala, who has been in police custody since Oct. 18, was sent to prison to await trial on charges of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and the Republic of Turkey”.

His case was also merged with that against Metin Topuz, a Turkish employee of the Istanbul U.S. Consulate recently arrested on the same charges.

Kavala is known for his prominent role in humanitarian and civil society initiatives including the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, and the local branches of the Cold War peace and rights movement Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly and the George Soros-funded Open Society Foundations.

He also helps run İletişim Publishing, one of Turkey’s most prominent publishing houses.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said in a statement after Kavala’s detention: “All the connections of the person they call Turkey’s Soros are now emerging. We need to hold him to account.”

Turkey’s pro-government press has long accused U.S. billionaire George Soros of having secretly financially supported the 2013 Gezi Park protests, the biggest demonstrations against more than a decade of Erdoğan’s rule.

US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert reacted to detainment of Kavala, stated during a press conference on October 19th: “The detentions are often made without – very little evidence, very little transparency, and we consider that to be a very alarming trend in that country.  We’ve expressed to the Turkish Government our concerns on many occasions about this trend – the trend of curbs on free speech, detentions, the overall erosion of democratic society there.  So it remains a major concern of ours.  We also believe that it – a detention such as his chills the public debate."