[Marxism] A Hint of Freedom for a Turkish Activist. Then Back to Jail.
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Feb 19 06:49:47 MST 2020
NY Times, Feb. 19, 2020
A Hint of Freedom for a Turkish Activist. Then Back to Jail.
By Carlotta Gall
SILIVRI, Turkey — A Turkish court on Tuesday acquitted nine people
accused of trying to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a
surprising verdict interpreted as an important concession by the
government in a trial widely criticized as unjust both at home and abroad.
Among those ordered released was a prominent philanthropist, Osman
Kavala, who has spent over two years in detention. But within hours the
Istanbul prosecutor announced that he had ordered him kept in custody in
connection with an investigation into a coup attempt in 2016.
At day’s end, Mr. Kavala remained in police custody, and he may now face
even more serious charges.
Well-wishers who had been waiting for his release near the prison after
the verdict eventually began to disperse. According to one news outlet,
Mr. Kavala had already been transferred from prison to police
headquarters in central Istanbul to be detained on new charges.
“This decision resembles a deliberate and planned cruelty,” Milena
Buyum, the Turkey campaigner for Amnesty International, said in a
statement. “While it was decided to release Osman Kavala after keeping
him in jail for around two and a half years, closing down the door
towards freedom again is a destructive blow to himself, his family and
everyone in Turkey defending justice.”
AN INMATE'S TALE“I have been in prison in Turkey for two years,” Osman
Kavala wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed piece last year.
Under Mr. Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule, Mr. Kavala’s case
has come to symbolize the arbitrary injustice being meted out by the
government across the country since the 2016 coup attempt.
Unlike the tens of thousands who have been rounded up for alleged links
to the coup, Mr. Kavala and his co-defendants were prosecuted for taking
part in protests in Taksim Square, in central Istanbul, in 2013.
Demonstrators occupied the square to halt the construction of a shopping
mall in one of the city’s few parks. Mr. Erdogan, who personally
supported the development project, saw the protests as a direct
challenge to his rule and had them crushed with riot police officers and
Prosecutors had demanded life sentences in solitary confinement, without
parole, for three of the defendants, including Mr. Kavala, and up to 20
years for the others.
In all, the prosecutors brought charges against 16 defendants, nine of
whom were acquitted on Tuesday. The seven others are living abroad and
had their arrest warrants withdrawn, although they will have to appear
in court on their return.
Human rights organizations and defense lawyers said that the case was
deeply flawed and that prosecutors lacked credible evidence. The
unexpected acquittals, they said, were undoubtedly a political decision,
and came after sustained pressure on Turkey from Western governments to
free Mr. Kavala.
The verdict, analysts said, may also reflect the government’s reading of
the shifting political winds in the country, which have increasingly
buffeted Mr. Erdogan since he and his party suffered a defeat in mayoral
elections last year.
“Something is changing,” Can Atalay, one of the defendants, said as he
embraced well-wishers after the verdict. Asked what he thought had led
to the acquittal, he said: “I don’t know. I don’t know. Something is
The court, packed with friends and supporters of the defendants, erupted
into applause and cheers at the announcement of the verdict.
As the eight-month trial went on, the defendants drew growing support,
including from the newly elected mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, who
said on Twitter over the weekend that he had attended the protests on
In a widespread campaign on social media, other supporters updated their
social media accounts in solidarity and posted photos of themselves at
the Taksim Square protests.
Few doubted that the verdict Tuesday reflected a decision from the top
“It can only be read politically,” Tora Pekin, a defense lawyer, said.
“It was a political case and a political ruling came out of it.”
Mr. Pekin described the trial as “extremely ridiculous” and warned that
the acquittals did not mean Turkey’s justice system was improving. “We
have a saying that one flower does not make a spring,” he said.
Mr. Kavala, 63, was met with applause from the public when he entered
the court Tuesday carrying a blue plastic bag. He raised his hand
acknowledging the support, but did not look around.
Mr. Kavala stooped slightly over the microphone and cited a ruling by
the European Court of Human Rights, which found that there were no
grounds for Turkey to prosecute him.
Human rights organizations and lawyers said the European Court’s ruling
in December may have spurred the Turkish government to order the
acquittals to avoid embarrassment.
Mr. Erdogan, who has been pushing for the European Union to reopen
chapters of Turkey’s entry to the bloc, has come under pressure from
European governments to release Mr. Kavala and end some of the most
egregious human rights abuses Turkey.
Before the trial, Amnesty International said the outcome would “show the
rest of the world whether respect for human rights has any part to play
in the Turkish justice system.”
The case of 11 human rights activists, including two employees of
Amnesty International, who were detained after organizing a conference
in Istanbul in 2017, is also being closely watched ahead of a hearing in
The rearrest of Mr. Kavala was interpreted as a sign that Mr. Erdogan
may not be ready to ease up on his opponents.
Ramazan Demir, a lawyer, said on Twitter that the government was playing
a legal game so it could try wriggle out from the European Court of
Human Rights decision. “They make the new system they founded work like
clockwork,” he wrote. “We only watch.”
Yildiray Ogur, a columnist for the daily newspaper Karar, said Mr.
Kavala was a victim of political quarrels between cliques inside the
judiciary. “Without one single piece of evidence against him,” he said,
“and accusations that are nothing more than conspiracy theories. Very sad.”
Mr. Erdogan’s supporters and pro-government media criticized the
acquittals, insisting that the Taksim Square protests had been an
obvious attempt to overthrow the government, unseat Mr. Erdogan and
undermine his plan to run for president the following year.
Some claimed the protests were part of a conspiracy linked to the
American-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, who is wanted in Turkey over
accusations that he masterminded the coup attempt in 2016.
“It was a clear organization to prevent Recep Tayyip Erdogan from
becoming the president,” Melih Altinok, a columnist with a
pro-government newspaper, Sabah, said on a television news channel A Haber.
Mustafa Varank, the minister for industry and technology, said on
Twitter that the Taksim Square protests were a betrayal of Turkey’s
democracy and economy. He said they had been “aimed to overthrow the
elected government with vandalism, and turned into a festival for terror
Rights organizations criticized the prosecution as lacking solid
evidence and using arguments based on conspiracy theories. Defense
lawyers protested that they were not given the transcripts of phone
calls used as evidence in the trial and were not permitted to question a
One defendant, Mucella Yapici, an architect, ended her final statement
to the court with a tribute to the demonstrators who died during the
2013 protests, rousing loud applause from the gallery.
“I bow my head in respect before those eight kids who were killed and
all those friends who lost their eye sight,” she said. “The judgment is
More information about the Marxism