AP NEWS

Turkey keeps businessman jailed despite European ruling

December 24, 2019 GMT

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Turkish court on Tuesday ruled that a philanthropist businessman be kept in jail despite a European court judgment that called for his immediate release, the state-run news agency reported.

Businessman Osman Kavala was arrested in November 2017, accused of organizing anti-government protests four years earlier. He was charged with “attempting to overthrow the government” by organizing and financing an “uprising” with 15 other defendants.

The charge carries a potential life prison sentence.

Ruling in favor of Kavala earlier this month, the European Court of Human Rights said there was no evidence that the businessman had committed an offense and called on Turkey to end his detention.

On Tuesday’s hearing in a courtroom in the outskirts of Istanbul, Kavala requested his release in line with the European court’s judgment.

The local court however, ruled that he be kept in pre-trial detention, saying it needed to wait for the Justice Ministry to confirm the European court’s decision, Anadolu Agency reported. The trial was adjourned until Jan. 28.

Kavala rejects the accusations leveled against him.

The protests began in 2013 to protect the small Gezi Park in central Istanbul from development but quickly evolved into wider anti-government demonstrations across Turkey. Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse mostly peaceful protesters. At least 11 people were killed and thousands were injured.

Kavala founded the Anatolian Culture Foundation, an organization that focuses on cultural and artistic projects for peace and dialogue.

Prosecutors claimed Kavala and the other defendants tried to overthrow the government of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was prime minister in 2013 and is now president.

The indictment against the defendants also claims that billionaire philanthropist George Soros masterminded the Gezi protests, but doesn’t name him as a suspect.

Erdogan is among the 746 complainants on the indictment and has publicly accused Kavala of financing the protests with Soros’ backing.