Gezi trial: Court acquits all defendants, rules release of Kavala

A Turkish court in Istanbul has acquitted the civil rights activist and cultural patron Osman Kavala and 15 other defendants in the Gezi trial of all charges. The judges also ordered Kavala's release from prison.

In the Gezi trial, a Turkish court acquitted the civil rights activist Osman Kavala and 15 defendants from all charges. The judges at the 30th Istanbul Heavy Penal Court in the Silivri prison complex also ordered Kavala's release from prison. According to them there is no "sufficient evidence" for the guilt of the accused.

Turkish businessman, human-rights defender and activist Osman Kavala was arrested in October 2017. The charges against him were not known for a long time, as the trial was initially classified. Only after more than a year did the public prosecutor's office present a 657-page indictment. The 62-year-old founder of the cultural foundation Anadolu Kültür and the other defendants were accused, among other things, of attempted coup in connection with the 2013 Gezi protests, which were critical of the government. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) had already demanded Kavala’s release in December 2019. However, Turkey has not yet implemented the ruling. Most recently, the judges at the high-security prison Silivri had justified this on the grounds that there was a strong suspicion of a crime and a risk of flight.

In its conclusion plea the public prosecutor of Istanbul had demanded life sentences under aggravated conditions for Kavala, architect Mücella Yapıcı and activist Yiğit Aksakoğlu. For the accused Çiğdem Mater Utku, Ali Hakan Altınay, Mine Özerden, Şerafettin Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman and Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi prison sentences between 15 and 20 years were demanded. The trial of the remaining seven defendants, who are abroad, including actors Ayşe Pınar Alabora and Memet Ali Alabora, was ruled to be separated.

At the start of the trial on 24 June, Kavala had stated that the accusations were without any foundation or logic, stressing that the indictment was based on unproven assumptions.

Gezi Protests

The Gezi protests began in May 2013 against a planned construction project on the site of the Gezi Park, which is directly adjacent to Taksim Square. The local protests quickly expanded into a nationwide resistance movement against the authoritarian policies of the then Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, after the police cracked down hard on the citizens' initiative and environmental activists in solidarity. Finally, the movement was bloodily suppressed - eleven people died, thousands more were injured.

Osman Kavala

Osman Kavala is the founder of the cultural foundation Anadolu Kültür, which particularly supports projects of ethnic and religious minorities, often with an international orientation. His concerns include reconciliation between the Turkish and Armenian populations and a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question. The foundation also works together with several German institutions such as the Goethe-Institut in Istanbul. Kavala is also known as a sponsor of Amnesty International.