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Turkish human rights activist Osman Kavala sentenced to life in prison

A court in Istanbul has sentenced 64-year-old philanthropist and human rights activist Osman Kavala, accused of an attempt to «overthrow the government» during the 2013 mass protests. He was sentenced to life in prison, NTV reported. The espionage charge against Kavala was dropped for lack of evidence.

Seven other people (Muchella Yapıcı, Chigdem Mater, HakanAltynai, Mine Özerden, Jan Atalay, Taifun Kahraman and YigitAli Ekmekci) were charged with aiding and abetting Kavala and sentenced to 18 years in prison each.

Amnesty International called the sentence absurd. «Today, we have witnessed a travesty of justice of spectacular proportions. This verdict deals a devastating blow not only to Osman Kavala, his co-defendants and their families, but to everyone who believes in justice and human rights activism in Turkey and beyond,» said Nils Muižnieks, Amnesty International's Europe Director.

According to him, the prosecuting authorities were unable to produce evidence for the charges.

Muižnieks stressed that Osman Kavala had been imprisoned for more than 4.5 years «over his civil society activism.»

In February, the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, which monitors compliance with rulings by the European Court of Human Rights, held Turkey responsible for the government's refusal to comply with the 2019 ECHR ruling and release Osman Kavala. Turkey is the second country to face such infringement proceedings for failing to implement a binding ruling of the ECtHR.

Turkish President Recep Erdogan once called Kavala the «Turkish Soros,» implying in a disparaging way that he, like American billionaire George Soros, had been supporting civil society institutions. The foundation, established by Kavala in 2002, finances Kurdish cultural projects and supports Syrian refugees, according to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

In the fall of 2013, Turkey saw its most massive protests against Recep Erdogan's regime. Members of the new Gezi Party, named after the Istanbul park of the same name, took part in the protests. The authorities' decision to demolish the park sparked the initial wave of outrage.

The Gezi Party was registered in Ankara by a group of liberal Turkish intellectuals and artists. Party members hoped to win parliamentary elections and carry out democratic reforms.

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