Turkish gov’t jails prominent social activist Osman Kavala after 2 weeks of detention

Osman Kavala

Osman Kavala, one of Turkey’s most prominent businessmen, social activist and the chairman of İstanbul-based Anadolu Kültür Association, was put in pretrial detention after spending two weeks under police custody on early Wednesday.

Detained upon his arrival to İstanbul’s Atatürk airport late on Oct 18, Kavala is accused of “attempting to abolish the constitutional order” and “attempting to remove the government of the Turkish Republic,” according to the Turkish media.

Turkish media also said Kavala has been under investigation in the same probe that led to the jailing of US consulate employee Metin Topuz who was jailed on October 4, 2017 over his alleged ties to the Gülen movement.

Academic Ayşe Buğra

Ayşe Buğra, an academic at Turkey’s prestigious Boğaziçi University and the wife of Osman Kavala, has stated that the recent arrest of her husband on coup charges dashed all remaining hopes for Turkish democracy. Her statement is as follow:

My spouse, Chairperson of the Anadolu Kültür Osman Kavala is arrested on 1 November 2017 at 04:10 a.m. on charges of ‘attempting to abolish constitutional order’ and ‘attempting to overthrow the Government of the Republic of Turkey or preventing it from undertaking its duties.

In the arrest decision it is stated that Osman Kavala was the organizer and overseer of the Gezi incidents where all terror organisations(FETÖ/PDY – PKK/KCK – DHKPC, MLKP) were involved and that he partook in the coup attempt of 15 July 2016.

There is a ‘sealing order’ on the current investigation. Irrespective of the circumstances without compromising our respect to rule of law we leave a comprehensive explanation to time. However we felt compelled to provide a statement due to the attempted perception management carried out against Osman Kavala by certain print and visual media throughout his detention period.

The aforementioned desicion is worrisome because the ‘reports of interception of communication and physical surveillance reports’ pertain to the period when FETÖ/PDY –member public officials were still on duty and every decision that is predicated on these applications is an explicit legitimization of a period that is being prosecuted.

Moreover this also means that Osman Kavala was involved in the attempted coup along with the members of the organisation who collected the evidence which led to Kavala’s arrest, which is tragicomic beyond being unlawful”.

It is dubious that he is arrested today on these grounds while actions, monetary transactions and evidence on the basis of which Osman Kavala financed and orchestrated the Gezi incidents cannot be revealed, and while he has not been subjected to any investigations and charges since then.

With the arrest decision we have not only lost Osman Kavala’s freedom, but also lost our hopes for democracy, peace and the rule of law.”

Hugh Williamson

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also reacted on Thursday to the arrest of Kavala and calling it an example of the politicized and arbitrary nature of Turkey’s justice system. “The case against Osman Kavala is a disgraceful example of how politicized court decisions in Turkey follow a calculated smear campaign in pro-government media,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“We have seen a pattern of prosecutors producing outlandish allegations with no evidence and courts complying, demonstrating how Turkey’s justice system acts as a handmaiden to politicians… The case against Kavala is also another dramatic setback for all groups in Turkey that, like Kavala, work on initiatives to strengthen human rights and the rule of law and to promote pluralism and tolerance,” the HRW said in the statement.

“Days after release of the Istanbul 10 human rights defenders, the arrest of Osman Kavala shows that the government is intent on continuing the crackdown on human rights defenders and civil society,” Williamson said and added  “The Kavala case demonstrates that Turkey’s justice system has become an instrument of deep injustice.”

Recalling that the court decision to keep Kavala in custody relies on the prosecutor’s allegations that he “is publicly known as being a director and organizer of the actions known as the Gezi events” and that he was in “unnaturally intense contact with [US-Turkish academic] Henri Jak Barkey and foreigners who were among the organizers of the [July 15, 2016] coup attempt,” HRW underlined: “Neither allegation has been supported with any credible evidence. The court’s decision repeats similar reports about Kavala in the media and earlier smear campaigns against him.”

HRW also expressed that police detained Kavala on Oct. 18 after a report on a website and other writings that attempted to discredit both his business activities and his wide-ranging civic initiatives and connections with various nongovernmental organizations.

According to the state-run Anadolu news agency, Kavala was arrested on charges of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and attempting to remove the government of the Turkish Republic. The ruling came days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared Kavala a criminal and the “Turkish Soros.”

Turkish  President Erdoğan had said Kavala was behind the Gezi protests of 2013, calling him Turkey’s George Soros. “Some try to deflect the truth by means of praises attributed to him such as ‘He was a good citizen, a media member, an NGO representative. Identity of this figure called ‘Soros of Turkey’ has been uncovered. That was his name that came up in Consulate General [investigation]. All connections have surfaced. And there is the same person behind the incidents in Taksim. You see those people again behind funds transfer to certain places. Who are you trying to fool?” said Erdoğan.

Kavala was born in 1957 in Paris and studied economics at the University of Manchester. Upon his father’s passing in 1982, he took over the management of the Kavala Companies. He was active in the establishment of a number of business organizations in Turkey, including Turkish-Polish and Turkish-Greek business councils and the Association of Tourism Investors.

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