An Istanbul court Tuesday ordered that Osman Kavala, a prominent tycoon accused of involvement in the Gezi Park riots of 2013, remain in jail.
Kavala was the only one jailed among 16 defendants tried for an attempt to overthrow the government, a crime carrying a life imprisonment sentence. Six remain at large while nine others were released earlier pending trial. The court also rejected those nine defendants' plea for acquittal.
Kavala is often branded the "Turkish Soros" for his links to the controversial Hungarian-American tycoon George Soros. He is known for his close ties to the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), a party linked to the PKK terrorist group. He was detained in 2017 during an investigation into the riots that shook Istanbul and Turkey in 2013. Two weeks ago, the European Court of Human Rights called for Kavala's release.
Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Istanbul in June 2013 in what began as a peaceful protest against a plan to build a replica of an Ottoman barracks on Gezi Park in the city center. Following a harsh response by the police, which is now blamed on the law enforcement infiltrators of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), the protests turned into nationwide demonstrations and riots against the government of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Portrayed as Arab Spring-style riots in the Western media, protesters garnered support even among moderate critics of the government despite their violence. The fate of Gezi Park, where officials' plans to rebuild the Ottoman-era building was thwarted when red tape caused delays in redevelopment plans, is still in limbo. However, for rioters, the protests were a show of force for terrorist groups that exploited the peaceful protests to attack police. At least 10 protesters and one police officer died during clashes and events related to the protests, while thousands of others were injured.
The indictment against Kavala and others accuse the suspects of financing and coordinating the actions and protests in 2013, while claiming that they had been involved and directed the aspects of an uprising since 2011. Prosecutors accuse defendants of holding a series of meetings to plan the riots and contacting foreign activists on how to launch riots. It said the defendants "at best wanted to force the government to resign or call early elections" and were making efforts "to prepare the grounds for a civil war or coup" if that did not happen. Several suspects also face charges of damage to property, unauthorized possession of hazardous substances, damaging houses of worship and cemeteries, violation of the law on firearms and knives, qualified robbery and bodily injury.