European leaders must step up for Turkish philanthropist Kavala – Washington Post

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, as well as other European leaders who are still committed to the rule of law, must step up in the face of the re-arrest of Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala, the Washington Post said on Monday.

Despite a December ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for his immediate release, Kavala remained in prison until his acquittal last week in the Gezi trial, where the philanthropist and 15 others faced charges of attempting to overthrow the government for allegedly organising the massive anti-government protests centred around Istanbul’s Gezi Park in 2013.

The detailed ruling announced today stated there was no evidence of Kavala financing the protests, and deemed some pieces of evidence put forth by the prosecution as illegally obtained.  

Kavala was not released after the acquittal as another arrest warrant was issued within hours of the ruling related to another investigation accusing him of involvement with a failed coup attempt in July 15, 2016. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday said “maneuvers had been pulled” to free Kavala, and an investigation was launched into the judge for the acquittal, which “appeared to be a concession by the regime at a moment when it is seeking Western aid for the latest crisis in neighboring Syria,” the Washington Post said.

The second investigation, in which its prosecutor ordered last year for Kavala to face trial without remand, is based on Kavala’s alleged contact with U.S. academic Henri Barkey, who also stands accused of plotting the coup in the name of the CIA. 

Barkey last week said he never explicitly met with Kavala, and knew the philanthropist only in passing.  

Kavala had helped establish the Turkey branch of the Open Society Foundation, financed by American-Hungarian billionaire George Soros, who has been “the subject of countless crackpot conspiracy theories among the European and U.S. far right,” the Washington Post said. 

His connection to Soros has been cited throughout the trial by Turkish prosecutors and media alike, while U.S. President Donald Trump, “an open admirer of the Turkish ruler,”  has “himself propagated conspiracy theories involving Mr. Soros,” the article said.

As a leading civil society figure in Turkey, it said, Kavala’s imprisonment since November 1, 2017 “on such a preposterous pretext” has shown the “cruelty and paranoia” that has characterised President Erdoğan’s regime.