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55 academics call on Erdoğan to release Kavala

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Fifty-five academics have written an open letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calling for the release of businessman and civil activist Osman Kavala, who was arrested on Nov. 1 by an Istanbul court, the bianet news website reported on Friday.

Underlining that Kavala was arrested as a result of a smear campaign in the media, the 55 academics recalled Kavala’s devotion to democracy, human values, tolerance, peace and the rule of law.

“We, the signatories, demand that you release Osman Kavala as soon as possible,” the academics said in the letter.

Professor Taner Akçam of Clark University, Professor K. Anthony Appiah of New York University, Andrew W. Mellon Scholar at Princeton University Peter Brooks, writer James Carroll, Israel Charny of the Holocaust and Genocide Institute, Professor Junot Díaz of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor Kai Erikson of Yale University, Professor Carolyn Forché of Georgetown University, Professor Todd Gitlin of Columbia University, Professor Judith Herman of Harvard Medical School, Professor Susannah Heschel of Dartmouth College, Professor Colin Tatz of the Australian National University and writer Ragip Zarakolu were among the academics who signed the letter.

Kavala, who was detained on Oct. 18 in İstanbul, was arrested on charges of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and attempting to remove the government of the Turkish Republic.

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

“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 detention of Kavala, who is also chairman of the İstanbul-based Anadolu Kültür Association, drew international condemnation.

“Vicious media then Turkish court jails civil society figure, businessman Osman Kavala on suspicion of coup. Smear campaigns trump justice,” Emma Sinclair-Webb, Human Rights Watch (HRW) Turkey director, said in a tweet.

European Parliament (EP) members on Oct. 25 urged the immediate release of Kavala in a cross-party letter.

Georges Dassis, president of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), Kati Piri, the European Parliament’s rapporteur for Turkey, Marietje Schaake, member of the European Parliament, Rebecca Harms, a member of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, and Pier Antonio Panzeri, chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI) in the European Parliament, joined calls for the release of Kavala.

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