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Court rules to keep businessman Kavala in jail in Gezi Park retrial

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A Turkish court on Friday ruled to keep prominent businessman and rights activist Osman Kavala in jail as it began to hear the retrial of Kavala and 15 others for their role in anti-government mass protests in 2013, known as the Gezi Park protests.

The İstanbul 30th High Criminal Court issued the ruling for the continued detention of Kavala by a majority of votes. The presiding judge dissented.

Disappointed by the court’s decision, Kavala said: “The court ruled for the continuation of my detention although there is no evidence against me, although I was acquitted in the Gezi Park trial, although the European Court of Human Rights ruled there were rights violations in my detention and called for my release. The accusations change, but like in the case of a relay race, different judges and courts pass off my detention to each other.”

Kavala and eight others accused of organizing the Gezi Park protests, which were sparked in protest of government plans to redevelop Gezi Park in İstanbul’s Taksim neighborhood in May 2013 and quickly turned into nationwide anti-government protests, were acquitted of all charges in February 2020, but an appeals court overturned the verdict in January.

Kavala, who has been kept in detention for three-and-a-half years, is also accused of involvement in a 2016 coup attempt. Those charges were combined with the Gezi case in February.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in December 2019 that the prolonged pre-trial detention of Kavala, director of the Turkish cultural foundation Anadolu Kültür, was in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and demanded his immediate release. But Turkey has not abided the ruling despite repeated calls by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

Kavala was most recently tried on charges that include “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” and “obtaining confidential information of the state for political or military espionage.”

Earlier this week representatives of the German and French governments called on Turkey to immediately release Kavala.

The joint statement regarding the retrial of Kavala and his codefendants issued by Bärbel Kofler, the federal government commissioner for human rights policy and humanitarian aid at the Federal Foreign Office, and French Ambassador for Human Rights Delphine Borione was released on Wednesday.

“Osman Kavala has been behind bars for almost 1300 days, even though the European Court of Human Rights demanded his release a year and a half ago. Turkey’s treatment of Osman Kavala and the non-implementation of the ECtHR judgment is not worthy of a state governed by the rule of law or with longstanding membership of the Council of Europe,” the statement said.

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