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Osman Kavala | From philanthropy to jail

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Turkey on Tuesday expelled the Ambassadors of 10 international locations to protest their joint assertion demanding the discharge of Osman Kavala, a 64-year-old businessman and philanthropist who has been in jail since October 2017. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the assertion of the diplomats — representing the U.S., Germany, France, the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and New Zealand — as “irresponsible”.

Mr. Kavala’s incarceration has change into a global image of the autocratic flip taken by the Erdogan regime in addition to of the democratic resistance to it. Interestingly, though Mr. Kavala was into philanthropy, he by no means got down to be a dissident or activist. Born in 1957 to a household of tobacco merchants, he was inheritor to the Kavala group of firms, which he took over after his father’s demise.

Starting from the early Nineteen Eighties, when he helped arrange progressive publishing homes, Mr. Kavala went on to fund civil society teams that promoted grassroots democracy and pluralism. In 2002, he based Anadolu Kultur, which supported radical inventive and cultural tasks.

A narrative narrated by a former New York Times journalist Stephen Kinzer displays how Mr. Kavala is in contrast to the standard philanthropist in his readiness to face by the values espoused by his altruism even after they clashed together with his enterprise pursuits. Some years in the past, Kavala Holdings needed to construct a beachfront lodge within the city of Daylan. But environmentalists protested, arguing that the development would hurt the turtles that nested on the seaside. To everybody’s shock, Mr. Kavala got here down and met with the protesters. After listening to their issues, he tried to alter the design of the lodge, and when that didn’t work out, he merely shut down the mission.

Coup try

Above all, it’s Mr. Kavala’s promotion of initiatives to bridge the divide between the Turkish/Muslim majority and non-Turkish/non-Muslim minorities, together with Armenians and Kurds, which appear to have landed him in hassle. This denotes a direct problem to the ethno-nationalism of the Erdogan regime, which has proven little tolerance for dissenters, particularly after the unsuccessful coup try of 2016.

Mr. Erdogan reacted to the coup try with an enormous crackdown. All authorities establishments, together with the Army, academia and the judiciary, had been purged of anybody suspected to be disloyal to Mr. Erdogan. The Turkish authorities accused the Gulen Movement of orchestrating the coup. It was was branded a terrorist organisation and 1000’s of residents with hyperlinks to it had been arrested. Mr. Kavala was left untouched by this mass purge of ‘Gulenists’, which started in July 2016.

But on October 18, 2017, Turkish police picked him up for questioning. Subsequently, he was charged with trying to overthrow the constitutional order and the federal government, apparently by serving to to organise two very totally different occasions: the ‘Gezi Park’ protests towards Mr. Erdogan in the summertime of 2013, and the 2016 navy coup.

Mr. Kavala’s attorneys have argued that each these expenses had been ludicrous. Firstly, nobody had linked Mr. Kavala to the Gezi park protests in the midst of the 4 years that separated the occasion from his detention. Second, it was absurd that Mr. Kavala, a identified secularist and liberal, would collaborate with a conservative Islamic neighborhood such because the Gulen Movement. The Turkish Supreme Court agreed that the costs had been baseless and acquitted Mr. Kavala in February 2020. But he was re-arrested on contemporary expenses earlier than he might go away jail.

In all, Mr. Kavala has spent greater than 4 years in jail with out ever being convicted. Not solely has Turkey’s judicial system been a mute spectator, it has change into a device to maintain dissenters in jail on politically motivated expenses. In an order that was as a lot an indictment of the Turkish judiciary because it was an exoneration of Mr. Kavala, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered his launch in December 2019.

Turkey is sure by the rulings of the ECHR however has thus far didn’t comply. The diplomats’ letter and Mr. Erdogan’s churlish response to it are the most recent episode within the battle between the 2 sides on the problem of human rights.

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