Turkish court arrests philanthropist Osman Kavala on new charges of espionage

An Istanbul court has ordered the arrest of Osman Kavala over charges of “military or political espionage,” in relation to the ongoing coup investigation against the Turkish philanthropist, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Monday.

The investigation has uncovered an “intense suspicious relationship” between Kavala and former U.S. State Department employee and academic Henri Barkey, who himself faces charges for allegedly plotting the July 15, 2016 failed coup in Turkey, Anadolu said.

Kavala testified in front of a judge late on Monday via Turkey’s video conferencing system for prisons, as he is already under arrest in Istanbul’s Silivri Prison.

Despite his acquittal in the Gezi trial, where he faced charges of having organised and funded the massive anti-government protests of 2013, and a December ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for his immediate release, Kavala was not released from prison as a new arrest warrant was issued before the procedures could be completed.

Barkey in an interview last month said he knew Kavala only in passing, and unequivocally rejected any type of involvement with the coup.

Turkey’s accusations against Barkey stem from a meeting he organised in Istanbul’s Büyükada on the night of the abortive putsch, and part of the evidence against Kavala has been revealed as the two men running into each other in a restaurant a few days later.

The investigation cites a total of 93 hours of mobile phone communication between Kavala and Barkey, but Kavala’s lawyers maintain that the 93 hours show do not show actual communication between the two, but rather the time when their mobile phones received signals from the same cell tower, possibly due to Kavala’s offices being in the same neighbourhood as many popular Istanbul hotels.

Turkish authorities on Saturday released details on the current coup-plotting investigation, which focused on records of communication between foreign nationals and several figures in Turkish civil society, including Kavala.

“Here are the records of the third arrest warrant against Kavala on the same case file, issued by Turkey’s judiciary which understands independence as independence from the law,” tweeted Ahmet Şık, journalist and lawmaker from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).