Head of Turkey’s pro-gov’t think tank detained as part of Kavala probe

Şaban Kardaş

Turkish police has detained Associated Professor Şaban Kardaş, the head of Middle East Strategic Research Center (ORSAM) a pro-government think tank under the control of  former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, as part of investigation led to detention of one of Turkey’s most prominent businessmen and chairman of the İstanbul-based Anadolu Kültür Association.

It was reported that Kardaş was detained at his home in Ankara and transferred to the anti-terror unit of İstanbul Police Department on Friday.

Osman Kavala was detained by Turkish police upon his arrival at İstanbul Atatürk airport late on Wednesday. Kavala had landed to İstanbul from the southeastern province of Gaziantep returning from a meeting on a joint project planned with the German Goethe Institute. Kavala was detained while he was still on board the plane, media reports said. He was later transferred to police headquarters.

US AND FRANCE SLAM DETENTION OF OSMAN KAVALA

Meanwhile, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert has said the arrest of the prominent activist and businessman Osman Kavala was an example of a “very alarming trend” of the detention of civil society leaders, human rights defenders, journalists, academics and activists in Turkey.

According to a report by online news portal Washington Hattı, Nauert has stated that “We’ve all followed this story closely – academics, also activists detained in that country. The detentions are often made without – very little evidence, very little transparency, and we consider that to be a very alarming trend in that country. We have expressed to the Turkish government our concerns on many occasions about this trend – the trend of curbs on free speech, detentions, the overall erosion of democratic society there.  So it remains a major concern of ours. We also believe that it – a detention such as his chills the public debate. And when you chill the public debate and you prevent people from speaking freely and communicating freely, that harms that society. So it’s something we are watching very closely and is a concern of ours.”

The French Foreign Ministry has also also stated on Thursday that it was “worried” by the detention of Kavala, describing him as “one of the most important and respected figures of the Turkish cultural scene and of civil society.”

“France, like other European countries, regularly cooperates with Mr. Kavala, who is a regular interlocutor of our embassy. [We] will be very attentive to developments in this case,” spokeswoman Agnes Romatet-Espagne told reporters.

Kavala’s wife Prof. Dr. Ayşe Buğra, an academic at Boğaziçi University, has released a statement late on Thursday regarding her husband’s detention, saying it would not be right to make “hasty assessments” on the issue. “We express our gratitude to everyone for the support given to Osman Kavala so far. As the issue is still at the stage of an investigation, we think it will not be very right to make a hasty assessment at this point. Our opinion is that there is a misunderstanding about Osman Kavala. We believe the investigation and judicial authorities will correct this mistake swiftly,” Buğra said.

PRO-GOV’T MEDIA DEMONIZE OSMAN KAVALA

Staunchly pro-government Turkish newspapers Yeni Şafak and Güneş dailies have accused Kavala of funding terrorist organizations and betraying Turkey. In its front-page story on Friday, Yeni Şafak launched a smear campaign against Kavala under the headline “Key Figure of Terror Fund” next to a large photo of him.

The pro-government daily went on to say: “Osman Kavala played a critical role in money transfers to the PKK [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] and the PYD [Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party] as well as in all other covert plots against Turkey.”

In a relentless demonization campaign, another pro-government daily, Güneş, defamed Kavala by saying that he supported civil rights movements and minorities, as if such support constituted a crime.

Güneş claimed on Thursday that Kavala was running a criminal organization that supported the Gezi Park “coup attempt,” which was actually a popular youth protest for the right to the city and further liberties, recognized the Armenian genocide of 1915, “supported the PKK” and allied with the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in their struggle against the increasingly authoritarian Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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