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Turkey: who is Osman Kavala, the opponent of Erdogan whose release France is asking for?

Turkey: who is Osman Kavala, the opponent of Erdogan whose release France is asking for?

With 9 other countries, France calls for the release of Turkish opponent Osman Kavala, a publisher and patron who has become a bête noire of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime. Turkey reacted strongly on Tuesday, October 19 by summoning the French ambassador.

In a statement released Monday evening, 10 countries including France, Germany and the United States called for a “fair and rapid settlement of the case” Osman Kavala, imprisoned for four years without being tried. “The persistent delay [pris par] his trial (…) casts a shadow over respect for democracy, the rule of law and the transparency of the Turkish judicial system ”, estimate the 10 countries.

Ankara’s reaction was not long in coming. “The Republic of Turkey is a democratic rule of law. It is unacceptable that ambassadors make recommendations and suggestions to the judiciary in the context of an ongoing case, ”Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu wrote on Twitter.

Defender of the Armenian and Kurdish cause

Businessman, founder of several publishing houses, philanthropist: Osman Kavala is 64 years old a major figure in Turkish civil society. In 2013, he was one of the actors in the protest movement in Gezi Park, which targeted Erdogan’s government, then prime minister. Defender of the Armenian and Kurdish cause, he also campaigned for the “no” in the constitutional referendum of April 2017 on the reinforcement of the powers of the president.

The Turkish press loyal to power calls him “the red billionaire” and compares him to the American financier of Hungarian origin George Soros, known for his progressive and liberal commitment. For his part, Erdogan accuses him of “financing the terrorists”. Charges for which there is no proof, assures Osman Kavala’s lawyers.

Imprisoned without trial

Accused of having sought to “overthrow the government” at the time of the 2016 coup attempt, he has been imprisoned without trial since October 2017. He will remain so at least until November 26 in prison, decided in early October an Istanbul court, despite European threats of sanctions against Ankara.

In December 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered his “immediate release”, to no avail. The Council of Europe recently threatened Ankara with sanctions, which could be adopted at its next session (November 30 to December 2) if the opponent is not released by then.

In a recent interview with Agence France-Presse, Osman Kavala estimated that his detention allows Recep Tayyip Erdogan to justify his “conspiracy theses”. “For me, the real reason for my prolonged detention is the government’s need to maintain the fiction of a plot,” he said from his cell via his lawyer.

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