EU delegation calls for urgent release of Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala

The delegation of the European Union to the Council of Europe on Wednesday called for Turkey to immediately release prominent businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala, Turkish news site T24 reported.

Osman Kavala has been behind bars in Turkey since October 2017, and along with 15 other leading civil society figures is accused of attempting to topple the Turkish government by planning the nation-wide Gezi Park protests in 2013.

An Istanbul court on June 25 passed a ruling to release civil society activist Yiğit Aksakoğlu, who had been jailed since last November, while it ruled for Kavala to remain behind bars.

The businessman and philanthropist has already spent over 600 days in prison.

"The court’s decision to release Yiğit Aksakoğlu pending trial is positive news. However, the EU calls for the release without delay also of Osman Kavala for the remaining period of his trial, and notes that use of prolonged pre-trial detention can undermine the principle of presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial of the defendant," the delegation said.

The prosecutor is seeking aggravated life sentences for the 16 defendants, including Osman Kavala, journalist Can Dündar, actors Memet Ali Alabora and Pınar Alabora, city planners Mücella Yapıcı and Tayfun Kahraman, and lawyer Can Atalay.

Seeking life sentences for the peaceful participants of the Gezi Park protests is a "source of concern", the delegation said, adding that Turkish officials’ attempt to paint the protests as a foreign plot "contributes to creating a climate of fear".

Prosecutors have followed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's lead by alleging that Hungarian businessman George Soros was behind the protests, which the indictment says took place with the involvement of Soros’s Open Society Foundation.

The EU delegation in its report denounced efforts to criminalise receiving legitimate foreign civil society funding.

The EU will continue to closely follow the Gezi Park trial as well as other cases against journalists, members of parliament, human rights defenders, lawyers and academics "with the highest level of scrutiny", the report said.
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