A Turkish court has sentenced prominent civil rights activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
An Istanbul court found Kavala guilty of attempting to overthrow the government during mass protests in 2013.
Seven other defendants were also sentenced to 18 years in prison on Monday amid boos in the courtroom.
The verdict comes as Europe’s top human rights body, the Council of Europe, has launched infringement proceedings against Turkey over the case.
Ankara failed to comply with a 2019 European Court of Human Rights ruling that called for Kavala’s immediate release.
Kavala – who has already spent more than four years in prison – denies allegations that he funded anti-government protests. In his final defense statements on Friday, Kavala said the claims were “not plausible.”
“To have spent four and a half years of my life in prison is an irreparable loss for me,” he told the court by videoconference.
“My only consolation is the possibility that my experience will contribute to a better understanding of the serious problems of [Turkish] judicial.”
The 64-year-old has been held in Silivri prison – on the outskirts of Istanbul – since his arrest in October 2017.
Human rights groups say Kavala was prosecuted with limited evidence and that his basic rights were violated.
Kavala was initially acquitted in February 2020 of charges that linked him to the 2013 protests at Gezi Park.
But, as his supporters awaited his release, Kavala was re-arrested on new charges linking him to a 2016 coup attempt, which the Turkish government blamed on a network of US-based Muslim clerics Fethullah Gulen. -United.
This acquittal was later overturned and the cases were merged.
The European Court of Human Rights said in 2019 that Kavala’s imprisonment was aimed at silencing him and other human rights defenders.
An ongoing infringement procedure by the Council of Europe in this regard could result in the suspension of Turkey’s voting rights or membership in the organisation.
Erdogan dismissed the infringement procedure, saying Turkey would not “recognize those who do not recognize our courts”.
In October, Kavala’s continued detention sparked a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and 10 Western countries after they called for his release.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Kavala of being the “Turkish branch” of US billionaire philanthropist George Soros and threatened to expel Western envoys for interfering in Turkey’s internal affairs.