Kavala was convicted in connection with the 2013 anti-government protests in Turkey, which began with a plan to turn a small park in central Istanbul into a shopping center over the summer.
The demonstrations soon turned into larger anti-government demonstrations across Turkey. The court also sentenced seven other defendants to 18 years in prison for aiding in an attempt to overthrow the government. Among them were 71-year-old architect Mucella Yapici, city planner Tayfun Kahraman of the Istanbul Municipality and documentary maker Cigdem Mater.
Istanbul’s 13th Heavy Criminal Court ordered that the activists, who had not been arrested before the trial, be arrested immediately, Anadolu reported.
Kavala, his lawyers, other defendants and their lawyers have repeatedly denied the allegations, saying prosecutors have no evidence to substantiate the allegations. They are also expected to appeal the verdict.
Kavala, 64, is one of Turkey’s most talked-about inmates.
He was first arrested in 2017 on charges related to the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Istanbul. The trial was closely followed by human rights groups, who accused the Turkish government of using the judiciary to counter dissent.
Although Kavala was acquitted in 2020, that verdict was overturned and new charges were brought against him for his alleged involvement in the July 2016 coup attempt, which killed at least 250 people and killed more than 110,000. including officials, teachers, activists and journalists who were detained.
Amnesty International called Monday’s ruling a “devastating blow” to human rights and said the court’s decision “defies all logic”.
Kavala’s arrest has strained relations between the Turkish government and the West when 10 ambassadors, including the United States, France and Germany, issued a statement asking for his freedom and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “persona non free” called.
In February, Europe’s main human rights body, the Council of Europe, launched infringement proceedings against Turkey for refusing to comply with a European Court of Human Rights ruling releasing Kavala on the grounds that his rights had been violated.
In a statement on Monday, two senior European Parliament ministers said after the decision: “This regrettable decision by Istanbul’s 13th Heavy Criminal Court is a clear disregard for the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and will certainly have consequences. in the infringement.” pending proceedings at the Council of Europe.”
Nacho Sánchez Amor, the permanent rapporteur of the European Parliament, and Sergey Lagodinsky, chair of the EU-Turkey parliamentary delegation, expressed in their statement their solidarity with Kavala, the other defendants and their families.
“(This is a) very sad day, not only for them, but also for those who defend fundamental rights and the rule of law in Turkey on a daily basis and for anyone who wants to see the country move closer to the EU. This is clearly not the way to to do it,” they said.
“There is little to no EU perspective for today’s Turkey, which is slipping away from the international consensus on a rules-based order while not respecting its own international obligations,” she added.