An indictment accusing civic leader Osman Kavala and 15 others of financing and organizing mass protests in Turkey in 2013 in an attempt to overthrow the government provides no credible evidence of criminal activity, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.
The defendants face a possible life sentence with no chance of parole for the main charge of “attempting to overthrow the government wholly or partially preventing its functioning.” The prosecutor also accuses the defendants of responsibility for crimes allegedly committed by protesters across Turkey during the demonstrations.
Their trial will begin in İstanbul on June 24, 2019.
“A thorough examination of the indictment against Osman Kavala and the 15 others reinforces concerns that a politically motivated smear campaign advanced at the highest level of the Turkish government has become the basis for a criminal prosecution,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“Since there is absolutely no evidence in this indictment that Kavala and the others planned the Gezi protests, let alone conspired to foment an illegal uprising, the manifestly ill-founded charges against them should be dropped.”
Kavala has been in pretrial detention in Silivri Prison since Nov. 1, 2017. Another defendant, Yiğit Aksakoğlu, has been in pretrial detention in the same prison since Nov. 17, 2018. The other defendants are at liberty, six of them not in Turkey.
The indictment also alleges that the philanthropist George Soros was behind the conspiracy led by Kavala to plan an uprising against the government through the Gezi protests. Soros is the founder and chair of the Open Society Foundations network, which had a locally affiliated, but independent, foundation in Turkey.
Human Rights Watch asserted that there was an acute lack of specificity to the allegations the indictment contains. The prosecutor has made no serious attempt to discover a causal link between the alleged evidence cited against the defendants and the charges against them.
“The accusations against Kavala and others cannot reasonably form the basis of a criminal prosecution in a democratic society that claims to adhere to the rule of law,” Williamson said. “Kavala and Aksakoğlu are being arbitrarily deprived of their liberty and should be freed immediately.”