Expression Interrupted

Journalists and academics bear the brunt of the massive crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey. Scores of them are currently subject to criminal investigations or behind bars. This website is dedicated to tracking the legal process against them.

Osman Kavala remains behind bars as his "coup" trial begins

Osman Kavala remains behind bars as his

Court decides to hear remaining witnesses of the prosecution at the next hearing, which is set for 5 February 2021




The first hearing in the trial of jailed businessperson and civil society leader Osman Kavala on "coup" and "espionage" charges took place on 18 December 2020 at the Istanbul 36th High Criminal Court. The court ruled for the continuation of Kavala’s pre-trial detention and adjourned the trial until February.


Kavala has been behind bars for more than three years, initially on the allegation that he “financed and orchestrated” the Gezi Park protests of 2013, of which he was acquitted earlier this year; and currently on allegations of “involvement in the 15 July 2016 coup attempt” as a “local collaborator” of US academic and former State Department official Henri Barkey, who is a co-defendant in the case file.


The indictment seeks aggravated life imprisonment for Kavala and Barkey on the charges of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order using force and violence” under Article 309 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and up to 20 years in prison for “political or military espionage” under TCK 328.


P24 monitored the first hearing, where Kavala addressed the court from the Silivri Prison via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS. His lawyers were present in the courtroom.


After the presiding judge summarized the accusations in the indictment, Kavala made his defense statement. Asserting that the accusations in the indictment were not based on factual evidence, Kavala rejected the charges against him.


Kavala said excerpts from the indictment for the Gezi Park trial have been used in the new indictment against him.


“The indictment fails to prove claims that I had ‘frequently contacted’ Henri Barkey,” Kavala said, adding: “This indictment is alleging that because a trip by [the key coup suspect] Adil Öksüz to the US coincided with my trip to Germany, this provides evidence that there was communication between us. This is deeply illogical. All the meetings I had abroad and all my overseas trips are transparent.”


An English-language summary of Kavala’s statement to the court can be accessed here


Following Kavala's statement, the court heard two witnesses via SEGBİS in connection with allegations concerning Barkey and a meeting held at a hotel in Büyükada on the day of the coup attempt. Witnesses told the court that Kavala was not there. The court heard a total of six witnesses in the first session, including employees of the Büyükada hotel, who told the court that they did not see Kavala there.


The prosecution alleges that Kavala’s mobile phone sent signals from the same cellular base station as Barkey’s mobile phone on the same day, and that Barkey and Kavala came together at a restaurant several days after the 2016 coup attempt.


After a 15-minute recess, Kavala's lawyers addressed the court. Lawyer Deniz Tolga Aytöre said the unlawful indictment was aimed at “getting revenge against the acquittal verdict in the Gezi Park trial.” Lawyer Köksal Bayraktar said that although his client was facing two of the most serious charges in the Turkish Penal Code, the indictment could neither prove the grounds for the accusations nor offer any substantial evidence against Kavala. Both Aytöre and Bayraktar asked the court to release Kavala. Deha Boduroğlu, another lawyer representing Kavala, told the court that nearly half of the 64-page indictment was copied from the Gezi Park indictment. Asserting that Kavala was being subjected to judicial harassment, Boduroğlu also requested Kavala’s release.


In their interim opinion, the prosecutor requested the continuation of Kavala's detention and also asked the court to keep the arrest warrant for Barkey in place and to hear Leyla Alaton as a witness at the next hearing.


Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of Kavala's pre-trial detention and set 5 February 2021 as the date for the second hearing. The court will hear the remaining witnesses of the prosecution at the next hearing.



Further information on the case against Osman Kavala is available here.