Kavala’s Anadolu Kültür says targeted with trumped up charges in Turkey

Anadolu Kültür Co., a company founded by imprisoned human rights defender and philanthropist Osman Kavala, said it is being targeted by the Turkish authorities and pro-government media with unfounded charges seeking its closure.

Turkey’s Trade Ministry filed a lawsuit against Anadolu Kültür, which operates without seeking to make a profit, in August saying that it had failed to act as a commercial enterprise by earning most of its income from donations and grants. Pro-government newspaper Yeni Şafak resurrected the allegations on Friday, accusing Kavala of irregularities in running the firm.

“There are no legal restrictions in Turkish law on companies obtaining funds via sponsorships,” the company said in a statement. All activities were carried out in a transparent manner, with ministry and commercial authorities inspecting the company several times over the years, it said.

Kavala has been in prison since October 2017 on charges carrying a life sentence. He was initially accused of seeking to overthrow the government by funding the nationwide anti-government Gezi Park protests of 2013 through Anadolu Kültür and other means. The European Court of Human Rights, the European Union and the United States have called for his release.

“For the first time in the history of the Republic of Turkey, a lawsuit is filed against a company on the grounds that it ‘carries out its activities without profit, similar to associations and foundations’,” Anadolu Kültür said.

Turkey’s Financial Crimes Investigation Unit (MASAK) has inspected Anadolu Kültür’s books several times since its founding in 2002, but detected no criminal activity, the company said.

The lawsuit is unlawful and is “a continuation of the unlawfulness Osman Kavala has been subjected to”, it said.

Yeni Şafak said Kavala committed irregularities when transferring foreign funds to his supporters in Turkey via Anadolu Kültür. The company collected donations “like a foundation” while using its commercial status to escape oversight by the Foundations Directorate General, it said.

The newspaper said 95 percent of company revenue came from such funding. It said Anadolu Kültür took money from donors including the Open Society Foundation, founded by American Hungarian businessman and philanthropist George Soros, without providing any goods or services in return.

“The allegations made by some media outlets within the scope of the case are deliberate, some of which are not even stated in the relevant (court) file,” Anadolu Kültür said.

Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused Kavala and his wife, Turkish academic Ayşe Buğra, of working for Soros and of being provocateurs.

In February 2020, Kavala was acquitted of charges of attempting to overthrow Erdoğan’s government by funding protests against him. However, the acquittal was overturned in January, and on Feb. 5 a court combined Kavala’s retrial with another case against him, in which he stands accused of espionage.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled for Kavala’s release in December 2019 saying his rights to freedom were being violated. Turkish courts have refused to comply.