Kavala re-arrested on coup charges

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Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala was re-arrested on Wednesday in connection to an investigation into a failed coup attempt in 2016, one day after his acquittal on charges of trying to overthrow the government.

Kavala was transferred to an Istanbul court after being held at the city’s police headquarters since being immediately re-detained following his acquittal on Tuesday in the 2013 Gezi trial, news site T24 reported.

Earlier, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's office demanded Kavala be detained in connection to an investigation into the failed putsch. The warrant against Kavala was issued on charges of "attempting to disrupt the constitutional order”, it said in a statement.

A court on Tuesday acquitted Kavala and eight other civil society activists of terrorism-related charges over the 2013 Gezi protests, the biggest anti-government demonstrations since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan came to power in 2003. The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office is to appeal the Gezi verdict.

Turkey's Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) launched on Wednesday an investigation into three judges who acquitted Kavala and eight other activists.

Kavala, who was accused of organising and financing the Gezi protests, was kept behind bars for 840 days. But the moment he left prison following his acquittal on Tuesday, he was rearrested. A group of friends, including Kavala’s wife, academic Ayşe Buğra, had been waiting in a nearby restaurant to celebrate his freedom. 

Ayse Bugra, wife of Osman Kavala, Turkish businessman and philanthropist, leaves the restaurant after learning that Istanbul prosecutor's office demanded the detention of her husband, in Silivri, near Istanbul, Turkey, February 18, 2020
Ayse Buğra, wife of Osman Kavala, Turkish businessman and philanthropist, leaves the restaurant after learning that Istanbul prosecutor's office demanded the detention of her husband, in Silivri, near Istanbul, Turkey, February 18, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer


“This state of affairs in Turkey cannot last for long,” said Carl Bildt, the co-chair of European Council on Foreign Relations, on Twitter about Kavala’s re-arrest. 

“Incredible ... no words for this insane and cruel turn in the case of #OsmanKavala,” said Kati Piri, the former European Parliament rapporteur on Turkey. “Madness,” she said. 

Rights group Amnesty International said Kavala's renewed detention "smacks of deliberate and calculated cruelty”.

"To have been granted release after almost two-and-a-half years behind bars only to have the door to freedom so callously slammed in his face is a devastating blow for Osman Kavala, his family and all who stand for justice in Turkey," the group's Turkey campaigner said in a statement.

The Chair of the Turkey delegation of the European Parliament, Sergey Lagodinsky, called Kavala’s renewed detainment, "another tragic disappointment for him, his family and all those who had continued to hope for Turkey's return to democracy.’’

The ruling in the case of the Turkish philanthropist shows Kavala shows that no progress is being made with hopes for individual "reasonable judges" or "good will" from the rulers, Lagodinsky told Ahval.

Turkey's must ensure a systemic return to the principles of rule of law and judicial independence, the chair of the EP’s Turkey delegation said.

International human rights groups and European countries had strongly criticised the previous charges against Kavala, a human rights activist well known in Europe and the United States for his efforts to find a peaceful resolution to Turkey’s Kurdish question, a rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia, and to defend the rights of minority groups. 

The German Foreign Ministry condemned Kavala's re-arrest on Tuesday, and demanded a quick explanation from Turkey "in compliance with the standards of rule of law to which Turkey has committed itself". 

“The hope I felt yesterday with the acquittals and the decision to release Kavala, after 28 months spent in detention in complete violation of several human rights protected under the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as of the most elementary principles of legality and rule of law, was unfortunately very short-lived.” Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, said on Wednesday. 

“In such a context, these allegedly new charges brought against Osman Kavala have no credibility and for me, this arrest amounts to ill-treatment. I call on the Turkish judiciary and the Council of Judges and Prosecutors to assume their responsibility, by not giving a judicial confirmation to such abuses of criminal proceedings, and by reining in such prosecutors,” she said in a statement. 

Turkey blames the Gülen movement, a religious group formerly allied to Erdoğan’s ruling Islamists, for orchestrating the failed coup attempt in 2016, which left 250 people killed and more than 1,400 wounded. 

Following the coup attempt, the government launched a massive crackdown on the movement. More than 130,000 people were dismissed from their public sector jobs during two years of emergency rule, while thousands of devotees of the Gülen movement have been prosecuted.