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Turkish series negatively portrays jailed philanthropist in line with gov’t narrative

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A controversial digital platform series is believed to negatively portray jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala in line with the narrative of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, the Serbestiyet news website reported on Wednesday.

Kavala, who has been behind bars since Oct. 18, 2017, despite a 2019 European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruling that found his detention was in pursuance of an “ulterior motive,” that of silencing him as a human rights defender, was sentenced to aggravated life in April 2022 on charges of instigating the anti-government Gezi Park protests of 2013.

The demonstrations were a response to the government’s attempt to destroy one of the few green spaces left in İstanbul, which quickly turned into a nationwide protest against the authoritarian policies of then-prime minister and current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The series, titled “Metamorfoz” (Metamorphosis), which recently started airing on public broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television Corporation’s (TRT) new digital platform “Tabii,” is believed to revolve around Kavala.

According to Serbestiyet, the character Teoman Bayramlı, contrived to resemble Kavala, takes over his father’s company after his death and then leaks secret information concerning Turkey to an American agent in the first episode of the series.

Just like in the series, Kavala also returned to İstanbul from New York, where he was studying for a doctoral degree, and took over his family’s business affairs after the sudden death of his father, Mehmet Kavala, in 1982.

It is also claimed in the series that United Investment Bank, which was founded by Kavala and went bankrupt in 1999, was allegedly established for the philanthropist by the Americans.

The series’ screenwriter, Mustafa Burak Doğu, is known for “Diriliş: Ertuğrul,” a historical fiction with a nationalistic narrative about 13th-century Turks, often described as a propaganda tool spreading implicit references in support of the Turkish government.

Serbestiyet said that although the series is based on the “distorted portrayal of Osman Kavala’s life story,” there was no disclaimer text such as “Any resemblance to real individuals and organizations is purely coincidental” at the beginning or end of the first episode.

Speaking to the Halk TV news website about the series, Ayşe Buğra, Kavala’s wife, said it was part of a “smear campaign” targeting her husband.

Turkey’s failure to implement the ECtHR judgment in the case of philanthropist Kavala led to the Council of Europe launching infringement proceedings against Turkey in February 2022 due to its refusal to release him. It marked only the second instance of such a procedure being initiated against a member state.

The CoE’s Committee of Ministers, responsible for overseeing the implementation of judgments by the ECtHR, last week stated that they decided to consider what further measures are required in the event that the philanthropist has not been released by the committee’s 1,475th meeting in September.

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