Jailed Turkish philanthropist Kavala says more charges being prepared

Turkish philanthropist and civil society activist, Osman Kavala, jailed for 20 months facing terrorism charges over the 2013 Gezi Park mass anti-government protests, said in an interview published on Wednesday there was a second investigation into him in relation to the July 15 failed military coup three years ago.

Kavala and 15 other suspects facing a total of 47,520 years in prison will appear in court on Thursday for a hearing of the Gezi trial. The defendants are charged with attempting to violently overthrow the government by organising the protests, the biggest demonstrations against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since he came to power in 2003.

“The fiction in the indictment is total nonsense,” Kavala wrote from prison in a letter published by the T-24 news website. 

According to the 657-page indictment Kavala acted as chief conspirator of 2013 protests, sponsoring sedition through his non-profit organisation Anadolu Kültür, set up to support peace and democracy through arts and culture, and his ties to the local branch of the Open Society Foundation, established by American-Hungarian investor George Soros. 

Yiğit Aksakoğlu, another civil society activist charged in the case, was released at the previous hearing of the trial on June 24. While Aksakoğlu’s release prompted hopes that Kavala might also be freed while the trial continues, the Turkish businessman said that possible new charges meant it would be unlikely that he would be let out.

“It seems they will rule for my release at some point. But this does not mean that I will be out of jail,” Kavala said. “After my arrest, ungrounded charges of supporting the July 15 coup attempt have been kept as a separate investigation and the decision on my detention was strangely linked to both cases,” he said.

The government blames the Gülen movement, a secretive Islamist group formerly allied to Erdoğan, for the 2016 failed putsch. Kavala has been accused of links to the Gülenists, as well as disparate armed organisations including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army-Front (DHKP-C).