Already jailed for more than three years, Osman Kavala once again ordered to remain behind bars; Gezi Park trial to resume on 21 May
CANSU PİŞKİN, ISTANBUL
The second hearing in jailed businessperson Osman Kavala’s trial on “coup” and “espionage” charges was held on 5 February 2021 at the 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Kavala, jailed pending trial since November 2017, addressed the court from the Silivri Prison via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS.
Opposition CHP lawmakers Ali Şeker and Sezgin Tanrıkulu, HDP lawmaker Züleyha Gülüm, independent lawmaker Ahmet Şık and diplomats from various consulates general in Istanbul were among spectators.
Kavala was re-arrested as part of this case last year immediately after he was acquitted in the Gezi Park trial. Kavala and his eight co-defendants’ acquittals were recently reversed by an appellate court, which remanded the case to the trial court and held that the court “should consider merging” the “coup” case against Kavala with the Gezi Park trial.
At the beginning of the hearing, the presiding judge announced that the court overseeing the Gezi Park trial has agreed to merge the ongoing case with the Gezi trial.
The court then heard businesswoman Leyla Alaton as a witness. Alaton told the court that she knew both Kavala and his co-defendant, US academic Henri Barkey, who is facing the same charges as Kavala in the trial, but that she had no knowledge as to whether they knew each other. “I have never seen them together, or heard of such a thing,” Alaton said.
Following Alaton, the court heard Osman Ereli, an employee of the Splendid Hotel in Büyükada, Istanbul, where Barkey attended a gathering held during the time of the 15 July coup attempt. Ereli told the court that Barkey stayed at the hotel on the night of the coup attempt. The presiding judge asked Ereli about a souvenir in the shape of “a bell inscribed the word Pennsylvania,” allegedly found by a hotel employee on the front desk after Barkey left, which is held among evidence in the indictment. Ereli told the judge he did not see who left the bell on the front desk.
“Ultimate motive is to continue my detention”
Osman Kavala addressed the court next. Asserting that the prosecution is aware of the lack of evidence to support the accusations against him, Kavala said:
“It is unlikely that an impartial observer objectively assessing the events and facts would fail to figure out the fact that espionage charges brought against me -- devoid of legal basis and in contravention of their very definition in the law -- were intended to rebut the ECtHR judgment calling for my immediate release.
“In the absence of concrete evidence that would constitute the grounds for incrimination, the prosecution seeks to create a certain perception by blending a number of conspiracy theories and accusations as if they were proving one another, with the ultimate aim to direct the judiciary. The allegations put forward by the prosecution are devoid of factual grounds; the attempt to forge a link between these charges defies the rules of logic. Such a behavior can only be explained by an ideological approach or a lack of good faith. The ultimate motive is to continue my detention incessantly in an effort to keep alive the perception that I am guilty. In other words, the intention is to invent justifications for the arbitrary restriction of my freedom by using the public authority and the articles of law contrary to their purposes; this is a perpetual action aimed at usurping my right to a free life.
“The ruling by the Appellate Court, shortly before this hearing, to reverse the acquittal decision in the Gezi trial -- in line with the prosecution's request -- and to join the cases concerning different acts of people who are not related to each other will serve to keep the politically-motivated allegations about the Gezi protests on the agenda. It will also enable to prolong the life of espionage charges that are about to collapse as your Court has been incapacitated, and accordingly, my continued detention based on these charges.
“The passing of time does not normalize the gravity of this unlawful practice, which by itself has become a parallel punitive action; it only exacerbates it. Every single day I spend deprived of my freedom brings a far greater loss for me.
“While it is becoming all the more obvious and public that the charges brought against me are unfounded, each dismissal of my request for release constitutes a more flagrant violation of rights in comparison to the previous ones.”
“The only connection between the files is the prosecutor”
Kavala’s lawyer Deniz Tolga Aytöre addressed the court next. Aytöre stressed that Leyla Alaton’s testimony once again proved the prosecutor wrong in his attempt at creating the impression that Kavala held meetings with Henri Barkey.
Asserting that the appellate court’s ruling to merge the two files against Kavala was aimed at preventing his client’s release, Aytöre said the decision to merge the two files would not contribute to any of the cases. “The appellate court is demanding the impossible. This is against the principles of criminal law. The argument is that there is a legal and de facto connection between the two cases, well, the only thing the two case files have in common is that they were both issued by the same prosecutor. There is no other connection between the two,” Aytöre said.
The lawyer added: “The indictment claims that Kavala and Barkey held talks based on testimony by the prosecution’s witness Cem Fadıl Bozkurt and phone records. But there is not even one phone record to prove this claim in the case file. Despite the lack of evidence, my client is still in pre-trial detention. This indictment and these accusations are aimed at warranting my client’s detention in the face of the European Court of Human Rights judgment. We demand his release.”
İlkan Koyuncu, another lawyer representing Kavala, reminded the court that Hasan Yılmaz, the prosecutor who issued both indictments against his client, was recently promoted to Deputy Minister of Justice, while İrfan Fidan, the former Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor under whom both indictments against Kavala were issued, has been appointed to the Constitutional Court.
Köksal Bayraktar, the third lawyer representing Kavala, said the decision to merge the two files was unlawful. “I have never seen a high criminal court rule for a joinder without first hearing the lawyers representing the defendants. This decision is unlawful and invalid,” Bayraktar said.
All three lawyers demanded Kavala’s release.
The prosecutor then presented their opinion, requesting the continuation of Kavala’s pre-trial detention and that the file be merged with the “Gezi Park trial” before the 30th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Ruling in line with the prosecutor’s final opinion, the court decided to merge the case with the Gezi Park trial and ordered the continuation of Osman Kavala’s detention.
The Gezi Park trial, recently remanded to the trial court by the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, will resume on 21 May.