The Liberal patron who has been in custody for more than 700 days for "attempting to overthrow the government" remains incarcerated after an ugly hearing.
An Istanbul court on Tuesday [October 8th] decided to keep Osman Kavala, the patron, on remand. He has been imprisoned for almost two years in the Silivri high security prison on the outskirts of the city, and is accused of trying to overthrow the government during the major anti-government protests in Gezi Park in 2013. Fifteen other activists from civil society appeared alongside him. All face life imprisonment in this case, the unfolding of which is a major departure from the principles of the rule of law.
Among them, Osman Kavala celebrated this week his 62 years in prison. The man, a giant with piercing blue eyes and a good-natured smile, is not an agitator. Before his arrest, he devoted most of his family fortune to charity work, working at the bedside of abused children, restoring the architectural heritage, tirelessly calling for dialogue with religious and ethnic minorities in Turkey. The allegations against the group of sixteen defendants to which he belongs back in the spring of 2013. At that time, 3.5 million Turks took to the streets of major cities to protest against the authoritarianism of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then first Minister.
Parties of nothing – a contested town planning project aimed at cutting down trees in the center of Istanbul – the protests, called "Gezi Movement", spread to the rest of the country to become the first major protest movement against Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at the time already all-powerful, the never-seen since coming to power in 2002. The protests were quickly muted. The subsequent lawsuits against some of the participants, who were also accused at the time of attempting to overthrow the government, had resulted in acquittals. It was in 2015, a year before the July 2016 coup attempt, that Turkey, a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, swung into arbitrariness, particularly in the judiciary.
In 2018, 26,115 criminal investigations were opened for insulting President Erdogan
Since then, purges have never stopped. In total, 77,000 people have been imprisoned, more than 150,000 civil servants have been laid off and, still today, anyone can be jailed for a Tweet or an article. According to statistics from the Ministry of Justice, in 2018, 26,115 criminal investigations were opened for insulting President Erdogan, an increase of 30% over the previous year. On 27 September, the public prosecutor thus required four years in prison for the journalist Mehmet Yilmaz, accused of having "Insulting" former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim for questioning the origin of the fortune accumulated by his sons, rich shipowners.
No tangible evidence
In the indictment, the prosecutor presents the "Gezi Movement" of 2013 as an operation mounted from abroad with the aim of "Put Turkey on your knees". Several European diplomats are cited in the 657-page document where they appear as alleged accomplices of an imaginary plot. Above all, the folder is empty. To date, the Turkish justice has not presented any tangible proof of the guilt of the patron.
Tuesday, at the third hearing of his trial, Osman Kavala spoke without departing from his calm. "The fact that I have been detained for so long without the court having been able to put forward evidence of my guilt is a further violation of the law. This is an illegal and discriminatory practice, tantamount to punishment. I demand that the court put an end to this illegal, discriminatory practice. "
The audience sometimes takes on ubiquitous accents. Judge's question to Mr. Kavala: "Photos of a map of bee species and a banner of the Revolutionary People's Front have been entered on your mobile phone. Why these photos? " Answer of the accused: "This is a map of different species of bees in Turkey. I am interested in fauna and flora. There is no political content here. Different photos are saved on my mobile. "
New question from the judge: "Do you know Soros? " In Turkey, frequenting the American billionaire of Hungarian origin is considered a crime since Erdogan decided so. "Who is behind Kavala? The famous Hungarian Jew Soros, a man who encourages people to divide nations and dismember them ", he said in November 2018. The judges learned the lesson well.