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Turkish court orders continued detention of activist Kavala

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An İstanbul court ruled to keep prominent businessman and human rights activist Osman Kavala behind bars at the second hearing of a trial concerning a failed 2016 coup in Turkey, local media reported on Friday.

The İstanbul 36th High Criminal Court also said on Friday that it had merged two ongoing proceedings — on charges related to the coup attempt and the Gezi Park protests —  against Kavala, who has been in custody for over a thousand days on what many say are politically motivated charges, and adjourned the trial until May 21.

“My ongoing detention can only be explained by their ideological approach and a lack of good intentions,” Kavala said during Friday’s trial, which he attended via the Audio and Visual Information System (SEGBİS), emphasizing once again that there was “no concrete evidence” justifying his pre-trial detention.

He demanded his release on bail, saying that every day he spends behind bars causes “a new rights violation” and insisting that it was out of the question for him to tamper with any evidence.

Among those who attended the hearing were representatives from the German, Dutch, Swiss, American and French consulates and Turkish MPs Ahmet Şık, Ali Şeker, Züleyha Gülüm and Sezgin Tanrıkulu.

Behind bars since October 18, 2017, the 63-year-old activist was acquitted of charges of attempting to overthrow the state through involvement in 2013 nationwide Gezi Park protests in mid-February.

However, he was rearrested the same day on charges related to the 2016 abortive putsch, which claimed the lives of over 250 civilians in Turkey.

The move was described by Kavala’s lawyers as a tactic to circumvent a European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruling, which said on December 10, 2019 that his long pre-trial detention was a violation of his rights.

The activist is currently standing trial on charges that include “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” and “obtaining confidential information of the state for political or military espionage.”

On Jan. 22 the İstanbul Regional Court’s 3rd Criminal Chamber overturned the decision of the İstanbul 30th High Criminal Court to acquit Kavala and eight others of charges of instigating the Gezi protests, saying that the case must be sent to a first degree court for retrial.

The coup-related indictment accuses Kavala of collaborating with Henri Barkey, a prominent Turkey scholar in the United States who is accused of links to the Gülen movement, which is inspired by the teachings of Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen.

Ankara labels the faith-based group as a terrorist organization and accuses them of orchestrating the attempted coup in 2016, despite their strong denial of any involvement in the abortive putsch and any terrorist activity.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has arrested more than 95,000 people due to alleged links to the group as part of a massive crackdown against them that gained momentum following the coup attempt.

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