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HRW: Arrest of civil society leader in Turkey arbitrary, punitive

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday reacted to the arrest of civil activist and businessman Osman Kavala by a Turkish court, calling it an example of the politicized and arbitrary nature of Turkey’s justice system.

Kavala was arrested on Wednesday on charges of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” and “attempting to remove the government of the Turkish Republic.”

“The case against Osman Kavala is a disgraceful example of how politicized court decisions in Turkey follow a calculated smear campaign in pro-government media,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“We have seen a pattern of prosecutors producing outlandish allegations with no evidence and courts complying, demonstrating how Turkey’s justice system acts as a handmaiden to politicians.”

The ruling came days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared Kavala a criminal and the “Soros of Turkey.”

“The facts of Turkey’s Soros have been revealed. His connections have been exposed. Who are you trying to fool? The same person is behind the Taksim events [Gezi Park protests]. You can also see those who are behind financial support for some places. We will stand against those who try to hit this nation from within. We will pay them back,” Erdoğan said during his party group meeting in Parliament on Oct. 24.

Staunchly pro-Erdoğan Turkish newspapers Yeni Şafak and Güneş on Oct. 20 accused Kavala of funding terrorist organizations and betraying Turkey.

“The case against Kavala is also another dramatic setback for all groups in Turkey that, like Kavala, work on initiatives to strengthen human rights and the rule of law and to promote pluralism and tolerance,” the HRW said in the statement.

“Days after release of the Istanbul 10 human rights defenders, the arrest of Osman Kavala shows that the government is intent on continuing the crackdown on human rights defenders and civil society,” Williamson said.

“The Kavala case demonstrates that Turkey’s justice system has become an instrument of deep injustice.”

Recalling that the court decision to keep Kavala in custody relies on the prosecutor’s allegations that he “is publicly known as being a director and organizer of the actions known as the Gezi events” and that he was in “unnaturally intense contact with [US-Turkish academic] Henri Jak Barkey and foreigners who were among the organizers of the [July 15, 2016] coup attempt,” HRW underlined: “Neither allegation has been supported with any credible evidence. The court’s decision repeats similar reports about Kavala in the media and earlier smear campaigns against him.”

HRW also expressed that police detained Kavala on Oct. 18 after a report on a website and other writings that attempted to discredit both his business activities and his wide-ranging civic initiatives and connections with various nongovernmental organizations.

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