A Turkish court on Friday ruled that Turkish civil society leader Osman Kavala will remain in jail on charges of being involved with an attempted 2016 coup.
Kavala has already been detained for more than three years without conviction. Critics say his case is part of a government campaign to crack down on dissent. Prosecutors said the next hearing will take place in February.
As the video-link trial got underway, Kavala denied all the charges.
“None of the charges in this indictment are based on any facts, evidence or objective evaluation of a concrete criminal act,” he told the court via video link from prison.
Kavala, a 63-year-old businessman and philanthropist, who is known partly for his efforts to promote human rights through the arts, has been in prison in Turkey for more than three years without a conviction. His case has drawn condemnation from around the world, with the EU and US both calling for his immediate release.
Kavala is the director of Turkey’s Anadolu Kultur civil society organization and has supported a range of art and social projects. He was also a founding member of philanthropist George Soros’ Open Society Foundation in Turkey.
He was acquitted in February of attempting to overthrow the Turkish government during 2013 protests against the planned demolition of an Istanbul park that turned into anti-government rallies. However, he was rearrested almost immediately on fresh charges of espionage and trying to destroy the constitutional order in connection with a failed coup in July 2016.
In the aftermath of the coup, Turkish authorities have carried out a massive crackdown on suspected government opponents. Tens of thousands of judges, teachers, police and civil servants have been suspended or dismissed from their jobs, with many arrested and imprisoned.
Human rights group say that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has used the failed coup as a pretext to enact authoritarian policies.
Turkey’s constitutional court is currently deliberating on whether Kavala’s detention is lawful. It is not known when it will deliver its verdict.
tj/rs (AFP, dpa)