Why has Osman Kavala been arrested?
Osman Kavala, known for his philanthropic civil society work, was detained by police at Istanbul’s Atatürk International Airport on the night of Oct. 18.
He was taken to the police headquarters on Vatan Street in Istanbul. After staying behind bars for 14 days in the custodial prison, Kavala was questioned on the afternoon of Oct. 31 at the Istanbul Police Department’s Anti-Terror Branch.
The police questioned Kavala for almost 10 hours. Questioning did not finish until the early hours of Nov. 1. He was then taken to the Çağlayan court house, where the prosecution demanded to arrest him.
Kavala appeared before the judge with two of his lawyers at 03:15 a.m. The judge announced his decision in favor of Kavala’s arrest shortly after. Kavala was then taken to his first stop, Istanbul’s Metris Prison, before he was sent to Istanbul’s Silivri Prison.
It is forbidden to publish files from this ongoing judicial process, as there is a confidentiality order on the investigation. But it is possible to access some general information about the accusations made against Kavala and the arrest ruling based on these claim.
He is accused of being the “leader and organizer” of the Gezi protests in summer 2013. The Gezi protests are thus apparently understood as a rebellion against the state and an attempt to subvert it. The indictment against Kavala asserts that multiple terror organizations - such as the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure (FETÖ/PDY), the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party/Kurdistan Communities Union (PKK/KCK), the outlawed far-leftist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army-Front (DHKP-C) and the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) – all joined together to carry out these protests.
The second important accusation is Kavala’s contact with U.S.-based Turkey expert Henri Barkey, who took part in a seminar on July 15-16, 2016 in a hotel on Büyükada, an island off Istanbul. Barkey was at the time the head of the Wilson Center think-tank in the U.S.
We can understand that the police and the prosecution directly evaluates the Büyükada meeting as being part of the July 2016 coup attempt process and Barkey is referred to as one of the organizers of the coup.
But what do prosecutors claim is Kavala’s connection to the coup? The accusation says he took part in the coup attempt by having intense contact with Barkey and others based abroad. In this manner he tried to change the constitutional order by force and through violence. The court agrees with this evaluation and decided for Kavala’s arrest.
Let’s look at the supposed “concrete evidence” related to Barkey. One of the pieces of evidence is the meeting between Kavala and Barkey in a restaurant in Istanbul’s Karaköy neighborhood on July 18, 2016. The two were sitting at separate tables, and when they meet they shook hands and had a quick chat.
There is also second piece of evidence. The indictment compares the base station information of Barkey and Kavala’s cell phones. It finds that right after they met in the restaurant, their cell phones gave signals from the same base station on three different days. Telephone contact between them was not identified, but being within the network coverage of the same base station area is seen as sufficient evidence.
What about the claim that Kavala is the organizer of the Gezi protests? Here the records concerning telephone calls made at the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 between two people who joined the Gezi protests probably play a role. According to the records, these people exchange ideas between each other about whether to ask for money from Kavala. There is no speech between them and Kavala.
The result of all this is that Kavala has been sent to jail.