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Osman Kavala: Trial of philanthropist resumes in Turkey

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By AP  with Euronews
In this April 29, 2015 file photo, Osman Kavala, a Turkish philanthropist businessman and human rights defender is photographed, in Istanbul
In this April 29, 2015 file photo, Osman Kavala, a Turkish philanthropist businessman and human rights defender is photographed, in Istanbul   -   Copyright  Credit: AP

The trial of prominent civil rights figure and philanthropist Osman Kavala has resumed in Turkey in his absence.

Kavala has been held in custody for more than four years after being accused of financing nationwide anti-government protests in 2013.

The 64-year-old is also accused of espionage and attempting to overthrow the government by helping orchestrate the 2016 attempted coup. He denies the charges, which carry a life sentence without parole.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in 2019 that Kavala’s rights had been violated and ordered his release, but Turkey has repeatedly refused to do so.

The latest hearing comes as the Council of Europe is poised to trigger infringement procedures against Ankara.

Kavala said in October he would no longer attend the trial via videoconference because he did not believe he would receive a fair trial. Fifty-one other defendants are also on trial.

He was acquitted in February 2020 of charges in connection with the 2013 Gezi Park protests but was then re-arrested on new charges.

Kavala’s lawyer, Koksal Bayraktar, demanded his release and called on Turkey to "end this lawlessness".

“His continued imprisonment for 1,539 days is the continuation of lawlessness identified by the European Court of Human Rights,” Bayraktar stated.

In October, Kavala’s case caused a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and ten Western countries -- including the United States, France, and Germany -- after they called for his release on the fourth anniversary of his imprisonment.

The Council of Europe has called on Turkey to conclude the criminal procedures without delay before it holds a session on February 2 to decide on referring the case to the ECHR for potential sanctions.

In a separate case on Monday, a Turkish court has acquitted German journalist Mesale Tolu after years on trial for terror-related charges.

Tolu was cleared after being accused of engaging in terror propaganda and being a member of a banned left-wing group — the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party.

“After 4 years, 8 months, and 20 days: Acquitted of both charges!” Tolu tweeted after her acquittal.

The 38-year-old had been placed in pre-trial detention for eight months in 2017 and was later barred from leaving Turkey until August 2018.

Before her arrest, Tolu worked as a translator and journalist for the Turkish ETHA news agency.