In the Osman Kavala case, the sun sets in the east
The judicial process that led to the arrest of Turkish social activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala involved some quirky judicial practices – aside from the inherent controversy of the case.
First of all, it was contentious for Kavala to be handed to the Penal Court of Peace following his police testimony, without even being interrogated by the prosecutor’s office. The fact that he ended up arrested after being handed to the court does not make the practice any more acceptable.
The essence of the Criminal Procedures Act (CMK) is that any suspect must be questioned by the prosecutor responsible for the case. However, arresting a suspect simply based on a police testimony, without a prosecutor’s questioning, has become a routine practice since the declaration of the state of emergency in 2016.
Another contentious situation arises from the prosecutor and Penal Court of Peace’s description of the Gezi Park protests as motivated by an attempt to “abolish the state and the government.” This effectively makes the 2013 anti-government protests a coup attempt.
Almost four-and-a-half years have passed since the Gezi resistance and as yet there has been no judicial order that views the incidents as a coup attempt. This includes the trial dated April 24, 2015 which involved 26 suspects, including the head of the Taksim Platform and members of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) and the Istanbul Chamber of Architects.
This trial resulted in the release of all suspects, and Kavala was not a suspect. So how can Kavala, after all this time, be charged as an organizer of the Gezi resistance when the group charged in the Gezi trials was released? Because the order views the Fethullahist Terror Organization/
Parallel State Structure (FETÖ/PDY) as an “active provoker” of the Gezi protests, Kavala is also included as being related to the Fethullahist network, declared a terror organization by the Turkish government.
There are other curious situations. We understand that an investigation was opened into Kavala, that his phone calls were monitored, and that he was subjected to physical police surveillance. A report in the former daily Radikal published on Nov. 11, 2014 refers to a probe opened into Kavala, but no conclusion was reached in this probe.
Incredibly, we now know that the officials who opened that investigation were high-ranking FETÖ-PDY members at the time: Prosecutor Muammer Akkaş (who is now fugitive) and police chief Nazmi Ardıç (who is now arrested). Kavala’s wife, Prof. Ayşe Buğra, drew attention to this situation in her statement after her husband was arrested. “This situation effectively claims that Osman Kavala cooperated in attempting a coup through the [Gezi] movement with the same people who opened a investigation into him. This is not only against the law, it is utterly tragicomic,” Buğra said.
In his demand for the arrest, the prosecutor claims that Kavala was involved in the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. This correlation is drawn based on the meeting of the U.S. think-tank the Wilson Center, held on Büyükada, an island off of Istanbul, on July 15-16, 2016. Kavala’s running into Henri Barkey, the director of the think-tank, at a restaurant three days later is also viewed as supporting evidence of the suspected crimes.
First of all, all Turkish academics who attended this meeting have been released. Although 16 months have passed since the meeting took place, the Turkish public has not been presented with evidence showing any links to the coup attempt. But in Kavala’s arrest, the Büyükada meeting is described as being part of the coup attempt process.
Kavala’s conversation with Barkey at a restaurant cannot be evidence of criminal activity, while presenting as “evidence” the fact that Kavala and Barkey’s cellphones sent signals to the same radio station is – to put it mildly - a forced argument.
In some cases one simply has to put the “evidence” aside and address basic conscience. It is unacceptable for Osman Kavala – a long-time champion of democracy who has stood against military coups, who distanced himself from the Gülenists, and who has a long track record as a leftist intellectual - to be viewed as a pro-coup figure today.
Only those who believe that the sun sets in the east could possibly see Kavala in this light.