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Turkish court extended jail term for philanthropist Osman Kavala, whose case sparked diplomatic crisis with US and other Western countries after demanding his release

ISTANBUL – A Turkish court on Friday extended the jail term for philanthropist Osman Kavala, whose case sparked a diplomatic crisis with the United States and other Western countries after demanding his release.

The court ruling paves the way for the Council of Europe to launch infringement proceedings against Turkey.

Kavala was held without conviction for more than four years, prompting allegations of political persecution against the businessman amid international criticism of Ankara’s crackdown on opponents.

“This trial is yet another brazen episode in the relentless political persecution for which the European Court has condemned Turkey,” said Nils Muiznieks, Europe Director of Amnesty International.

“When a state shows such disregard for its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe must take action and initiate infringement proceedings.

The Council of Europe, a 47-member bloc that defends human rights, warned Turkey in September that it would start proceedings unless it releases Kavala before a ministerial meeting next week.

The process could lead to the suspension of Turkey’s membership or voting rights, further isolating Ankara and threatening a key link with Europe.

Ambassadors from 10 countries, including the United States, Germany and France, last month called for Kavala’s immediate release in accordance with a 2019 European Court of Human Rights ruling. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to expel the envoys before backing down.

The decisions of the European Court are binding on its members and had demanded the release of Kavala two years ago pending his trial, saying his imprisonment was aimed at silencing him and was not supported by evidence of an offense.

Turkey claimed he was being held in accordance with the decisions of its independent judiciary.

Kavala did not attend Friday’s hearing at Istanbul’s 13th High Criminal Court. He had previously said his presence via video link from Istanbul’s Silivri prison was “meaningless” and that a fair trial “was no longer possible”.

His wife Ayse Bugra, opposition MPs and foreign diplomats were present. Riot police vehicles and water cannons were stationed outside the courthouse.

Kavala was acquitted in February last year of charges related to Gezi’s protests in 2013, but the decision was overturned and linked to charges related to the attempted coup.

His trial is now part of a merged case involving 51 other defendants, including fans of Besiktas football club who were acquitted six years ago of charges related to the Gezi protests before that decision was also overturned.

Turkey’s fractured relationship with the West stems in part from criticism of its human rights record since the failed coup, which left some 250 dead, and a foreign policy that left it dead. has often disagreed with other NATO members.

Ankara is also facing an economic crisis which has seen the lira reach record levels over the past two months, losing 20% ​​of its value in November.

Kavala’s ties to billionaire financier George Soros’ Open Society Foundation proved important in his case, with Erdogan calling him “leftover Soros” in his speeches.

The next hearing will take place on January 17.

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ABC News

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