Turkish philanthropist and human rights defender Osman Kavala is expected to appear in court on Friday in what is likely to be final hearing of the case against him on charges of financing nationwide anti-government protests in 2013.
Held in custody for more than four years, Kavala is also accused of espionage and attempting to overthrow the government by helping orchestrate the coup attempt of July 2016. The 64-year-old businessman denies the charges, which carry a life sentence without parole.
Friday’s hearing follows a court ruling on March 22nd that Kavala should remain behind bars. The court had been widely expected to reach a verdict last month, but defence lawyers requested more time to respond to the prosecutor’s final opinion on the case, with the judge setting a date of April 22 for what was likely to be the final hearing in the case.
Human rights groups have denounced the case against Kavala, who has been jailed despite a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling for his release, as unjust and politically motivated.
Several human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have called for Kavala to be immediately released and for all charges against him to be dropped, citing the lack of evidence to support the accusations.
In February, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers voted to begin infringement proceedings against Turkey over its failure to release Kavala.
International human rights organisation Article 19 on Wednesday called for the human rights defender’s immediate and unconditional release, along with all of the defendants in the case, and for the group to be acquitted of all charges against them.
Moreover, Turkey must take immediate steps to restore the rule of law, implement European Court of Human Rights (ECTHR) judgments and cease the severe oppression of civil society, the organisation said.
In 2020, Kavala was acquitted of charges related to nationwide Gezi protests of 2013, but remanded in custody hours later on charges of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order in the connection to the failed putsch of 2016. The philanthropist was later released on that charge, but was detained on an espionage charge in the same case. Critics maintain the latter move was part of an effort to circumvent ECHR’s 2019 ruling for Kavala’s release.
Human rights groups and a number of Western countries see the Kavala trial as a symbol of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s increasing intolerance of dissent.