An Istanbul prosecutor in a new indictment has demanded an aggravated life sentence for Osman Kavala, a prominent businessman and rights activist, Turkish media outlets reported on Thursday.
Kavala will be tried before the Istanbul 36th High Criminal Court, which has approved the indictment, on charges of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” through his alleged involvement in a coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016 as well as “political espionage” for an additional 20 years in prison.
The indictment, drafted by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, said Kavala allegedly helped Henri Barkey, an American academic who formerly worked at the US Department of State. Barkey is accused by Turkey of spying for foreign governments.
The new indictment reportedly details the “relationship” between Kavala and Barkey as “new evidence” in reference to the alleged espionage, a charge of which Kavala was acquitted in the Gezi Park case.
In February Kavala and eight other defendants were acquitted of charges of attempting to overthrow the state through their involvement in the 2013 nationwide Gezi Park protests. After spending more than two years in Silivri Prison in Istanbul, the judge said there was “not enough concrete evidence” against the accused.
However, just hours before he was released, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a detention warrant for Kavala on charges related to the failed coup.
Kavala’s lawyers described the new arrest as a tactic to circumvent a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). In December the ECtHR urged Kavala’s immediate release, saying he had not committed a crime as there was no reasonable suspicion in the Gezi indictment.
Speaking to Deutsche Welle (DW) after Kavala’s second arrest in February, Barkey denied the allegations of his involvement in the coup attempt and his contacts with Kavala.
“They [the Turkish judicial authorities] have been accusing me [of involvement in the coup]. However, they have written my name incorrectly in the case [file]. They cannot be serious prosecutors. Everything in Turkey is [a] fabrication. It is impossible to answer all those lies. Yet, they don’t believe whatever you say. And the media is not a media [in Turkey],” Barkey said at the time.
According to Barkey, the allegations were made up by the prosecutors to keep Kavala behind bars.
The prosecutors argued in the indictment that the two met at a restaurant in Istanbul three days after the coup and communicated with each other in 93 hours of mobile phone calls.
Kavala and Barkey, however, claim they just ran into each other that night at the restaurant and that they had not made a single private call. They said the 93 hours represented signals received by their mobile phones from the same cell tower.
The approval of the new indictment came during the week that Turkey’s Constitutional Court (AYM) was scheduled to review Kavala’s individual application with regard to his imprisonment. However, amid recent discussions on the overhaul of the court, the AYM postponed the hearing.
Last week Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), had called for a restructuring of the AYM in line with the new executive presidency in the country. Immediately afterward, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and some members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) announced their support for Bahçeli’s proposal.