Turkish court remands businessman Kavala, releases activist Aksakoğlu pending trial: report

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Yiğit Aksakoğlu (L) and Osman Kavala.

Prominent Turkish businessman Osman Kavala was remanded in custody on Tuesday, accused of trying to overthrow the government by organizing protests six years ago, Reuters reported, citing his lawyer.

The court decided to release a second defendant, civil society activist Yiğit Aksakoğlu, who was detained in November of last year, said the lawyer, İlker Koyuncu. The case includes a total of 16 defendants, among them civil society figures, writers and actors.

“It’s wonderful that Aksakoğlu is going to be reunited with his family, while the fact that Kavala’s detention will continue is saddening. We hope the court will make up for it during the next hearing,” Koyuncu told Reuters.

The Gezi demonstrations in the summer of 2013 started as a protest against the redevelopment of a park in İstanbul, a city with limited green space, and quickly spread across the country.

Then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the time dismissed the idea that the protests were environmentally motivated, saying they aimed to topple his government. The defendants deny the charges against them.

The two-day hearing began on Monday against a backdrop of concerns about growing authoritarianism in Turkey, where tens of thousands have been arrested in a crackdown on dissent since a failed military coup targeting Erdoğan in 2016.

The indictment calls for life sentences without parole for the defendants, who are accused of attempting to overthrow the government and financing the protests among other charges.

The next hearing in the trial is scheduled for July 18-19.

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