A leading Turkish civil society group founded by jailed businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala on Tuesday rejected as “unlawful” a case filed by the trade ministry to shut it down, Agence France-Presse reported.
Kavala, who has been behind bars for more than three years without a conviction on charges the US State Department calls “specious,” created Anadolu Kultur (Anatolian Culture) in 2002.
The group promotes cross-cultural understanding through the arts, including with neighboring Armenia, with which Turkey has no diplomatic ties.
In August, the trade ministry filed a lawsuit against the group on the grounds that it was operating as a non-profit even though it was registered as a company.
The case was made public after being reported by Turkey’s pro-government media last week.
“Our company has carried out all its operations legally and transparently since its establishment in 2002,” Anadolu Kültür said in a statement. “The lawsuit filed despite all this is unlawful.”
The case adds further pressure on Kavala and his supporters.
The Paris-born businessman is being tried on charges related to a 2016 coup attempt and 2013 protests against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The 63-year-old was acquitted in a case related to the 2013 protests last February.
He was then immediately rearrested and charged with the 2016 coup plot. A Turkish court last month also overturned his earlier acquittal, and a judge has since combined the two cases into one.
Last week, the pro-government Yeni Şafak daily published details of the ministry’s lawsuit claiming that Anadolu Kültür, where Kavala is still listed as a chairman, only reported annual profits twice, in 2014 and 2015.
A source at Anadolu Kültür told AFP that the newspaper report was designed to poison public opinion in Kavala’s trial, which has drawn repeated condemnation from the West.
Anadolu Kültür said it is scheduled to face its second hearing in the case on April 15. Kavala is next scheduled to appear before the court on May 21.
Erdoğan has made no secret of his dislike of Kavala, branding him the “red Soros of Turkey” because he also headed US philanthropist George Soros’s Open Society Foundation in Turkey.