Turkey’s leading activist Osman Kavala, who at the weekend marked his 1,600th day in prison without conviction, appeared before court Monday for the first time in months, only to have his case adjourned and his detention extended, Agence France-Presse reported.
The philanthropist is accused of financing 2013 anti-government protests and playing a role in a coup plot against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The case has strained Turkey’s ties with the West and become a symbol of Turkey’s sweeping crackdown on government opponents.
Kavala has been detained since 2017 in a huge prison complex on the outskirts of Istanbul, in defiance of a European Court of Human Rights ruling to release him.
Last month, the Council of Europe (CoE) launched rare disciplinary action against Turkey over the case, which Ankara denounced as interference.
Kavala, who had snubbed court hearings since October, on Monday attended the latest hearing in İstanbul’s main court Çağlayan via a video link from his prison in Silivri — about 60 kilometers (40 miles) west of İstanbul.
His presence had built up expectations that the three judges overseeing his trial could be poised to deliver a final verdict.
Many Western observers, including diplomats from France and the United States were present in the packed courtroom, an AFP journalist reported.
Erdoğan has been trying to salvage battered ties with the European Union in recent months, a bid which intensified after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But on Monday, the judge accepted the prosecutor’s demand to extend Kavala’s remand and set the next hearing for April 22.
“My ongoing imprisonment is completely baseless,” Kaval told court on Monday.
He denies the claims and has branded the charges “politically motivated.”
If convicted, Kavala faces an aggravated life sentence, which has tougher terms of detention.
On March 4, the prosecutor delivered his final opinion, demanding that Kavala be found guilty of “attempting to overthrow” Erdoğan’s government.
Erdoğan has openly targeted Kavala and accused him of being an agent of George Soros, a Hungarian-born billionaire US financier and pro-democracy campaigner.
Last October, Kavala said he would not defend himself in court because he lost faith in a fair trial after his case sparked a diplomatic spat.
Erdoğan nearly expelled 10 Western envoys, including from the United States and major European powers, after they appealed for Kavala’s release last October.
Tolga Aytore, Kavala’s lawyer, said the indictment was penned with an “enthusiastic political ideology,” adding: “There’s nothing legal there.”
Kavala is on trial with 16 other defendants over the 2013 protests.
Nine out of the other 16 are abroad. The remaining seven were in court on Monday.
Human rights organizations have criticized the case.
“Despite committing no internationally recognized crime, he remains arbitrarily detained on baseless charges in a facility far away from his family,” said Nils Muiznieks, Amnesty International’s Europe director.
Muiznieks accused the prosecutors of seeking but failing “to conjure a crime out of thin air.”
“Each tortuous twist in this politically motivated prosecution has further exposed the hollowness of the Turkish justice system,” he added ahead of Monday’s hearing.
Turkey faces infringement proceedings by the COE, the second time the body has taken such action, the first occasion in 2017 against Azerbaijan over its refusal to release a dissident.