Turkey arrests prominent rights activist on espionage charge

A Turkish court has issued a new arrest warrant against Turkish businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala.

The warrant was issued three weeks after he was being acquitted from the charge of trying to topple the government and the country’s constitutional order by funding the “Gezi Park” anti-government protests in 2013.

Kavala was re-arrested the following day after being accused of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order in a failed coup on July 15, 2016.

Ankara says the coup attempt was carried out by supporters of the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999. Gulen has denied any involvement.

On Monday, a second arrest warrant was issued in relation to the coup attempt, this time for political and military espionage. Court documents said Kavala had been in contact with a man alleged to have spied for foreign governments.

Kavala testified in front of a judge late on Monday via Turkey’s video conferencing system for prisons, as he is already under arrest in Istanbul’s Silivri Prison.

It demanded that Turkey unconditionally release Kavala before he was acquitted last month, but Ankara refused.

Some international human rights organizations and western countries slammed the cases against Kavala, saying the charges are “politically motivated.”

In other news, a Turkish court on Monday sentenced the ex-mayor of a major Kurdish city to more than nine years in prison after convicting him of “membership in an armed terror group.”

Selcuk Mizrakli, the dismissed mayor of the Kurdish-majority province of Diyarbakır, has been sentenced to nine years and four months in prison.

Mizrakli was dismissed from his post by the Ministry of Interior on August 19, 2019 in light of a “terror-related” probe against him.