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The New Arab Staff

US urges Turkey to release detained philanthropist

Kavala has been accused of involvement in a 2016 coup attempt [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 July, 2020

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Ankara accused Washington of failing to respect the 'rule of law' over the statement urging Osman Kavala's release.
The US urged Turkey on Monday to release a philanthropist and major civil society figure detained for more than three years.

"We call upon Turkey to comply with its own commitment to justice and rule of law and to release Osman Kavala from detention, while pursuing a just, transparent, and speedy resolution to his case," said Cale Brown, deputy spokesperson for the State Department.

The statement was published as Kavala spent his 1,000th day in detention.

Ankara has since lashed out at the US statement, accusing Washington of failing to respect the rule of law.

"The US State Department's call for giving an end to Osman Kavala's imprisonment is in discordance with the principle of rule of law," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy said in a statement.

"Everybody has to respect the ongoing court case," Aksoy said, adding that Washington's "interference" in the case was inconsistent with its failure to comply with Turkey's request for the extradition of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara accuses of spearheading a 2016 coup attempt.

"Turkey is a state of rule of law. Nobody and no country can give orders to the Turkish courts over legal processes," he said.

Kavala was arrested in November 2017 and charged with organising the 2013 Gezi Park protests. 

Late last year, the European Court for Human Rights called for Kavala's release, ruling that his more than three years in pre-trial detention was unlawful.

Although he was acquitted alongside eight others on those charges in February, he was re-arrested just hours after his release from detention. Prosecutors accuse Kavala of espionage and involvement in the 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Rights advocates have slammed the charges as bogus.

President Erdogan has repeatedly linked Kavala to George Soros, a US-based philanthropist who he accused of trying to "divide and tear up nations".

Soros has become a favourite target of both far-right and far-left extremists, accused of controlling foreign affairs through his philanthopy projects.

"There are Soros-like people behind the curtains who seek to stir up things by provoking revolt in some countries," Erdogan said.

"The Turkey branch of this was in prison, but they dared to acquit him," he added. 

Kavala worked with Soros' Open Society Foundation before it was banned from Turkey, as well as a number of high-profile civil society groups.

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