Bad news for columnists who wrote against rights activists

Bad news for columnists who wrote against rights activists

Back in July police detained 10 human rights activists who were attending a workshop on Büyükada, an island near Istanbul. Some newspapers reported this event in their headlines as an “illegal coup meeting.”

I also have bad news for those newspapers and the columnists who also recently assassinated the character of businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala after he was detained by police at Istanbul’s Atatürk International Airport on the night of Oct. 18.

U.S.-based Turkish economist Dani Rodrik, who also helped bring down the spurious 2010 “Balyoz” case, in which many military officers were falsely accused of trying to bring down the government, has taken up his pen against the Büyükada incident.

We all know how seriously Rodrik works when he sets his hands to a judicial incident. We all know how he comprehensively disproved the Balyoz case with concrete evidence and documents.

My advice to the second Büyükada prosecutors is this: Take great care when you write your indictments. You are facing an exceptionally good public defender.

Now the case of Kavala is on Turkey’s agenda and the pro-government media is repeating the same mistakes it made in other cases. It describes an open meeting that was known to everyone as a dark, “secret meeting.”

Many people arrested in this case have now been released. But since the detention of Kavala, Şaban Kardaş, the head of the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM), which has been supported by the Foreign Ministry, has also been detained.

News reports say that one of the reasons for Kavala’s arrest is that “evidence was found concerning the July 15, 2016 coup attempt,” saying he had unnaturally heavy contact with coup organizers during the coup attempt on Büyükada. He is now accused of “trying to change the constitutional order by force and with violent methods.”

But in fact there is no decision, indictment or even tangible evidence that the meeting on Büyükada was a “coup meeting.” So how can someone be the organizer of a non-existent coup meeting? What’s more, Kavala did not even attend this meeting.

In his recent column, Hürriyet’s Sedat Ergin wrote that the evidence for the “unnaturally heavy contact” between Kavala and supposed “coup leader,” U.S. citizen Henri Barkey, was their meeting in a restaurant in Istanbul’s Karaköy neighborhood, during which they had a quick chat. The second piece of evidence is the signals sent by their cell phones from the same base station after their meeting, on three different days.

What did they speak about when they met by chance? Was there audio surveillance that could tell us this? If they gave signals from the same base station, does that mean they spoke on the telephone?

No, there was no telephone conversation between them. The extent of the evidence is that one day they were both by chance in Karaköy at the same time.

Other allegations against Kavala claim that he was the secret leader and backstage organizer of the 2013 Gezi Park protests. The indictment claims that the protests aimed to overthrow the state and government, supported by various terrorist organizations.

Who can actually believe that Kavala could unite “every” terror organization active in Turkey?

Finally, one of the other pieces of “evidence” against Kavala is that veteran journalist Aydın Engin once wrote him a message. “Can daily Cumhuriyet benefit from EU funds?” Engin had asked.

Is it a crime to benefit from EU funds? Many government institutions also benefit from them.

So let’s all be very careful not to repeat the same mistakes of the past in news concerning court cases on Turkey’s agenda.

Turkey, Opinion, Ertuğrul Özkök