1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Turkey's judicial farce

DW's Erkan Arikan
Erkan Arikan
February 19, 2020

The acquittal and immediate rearrest on new charges of the philanthropist Osman Kavala is a judicial farce. This is a huge disappointment to the opposition in Turkey, DW's Erkan Arikan writes.

Soldiers at a court in Istanbul
Image: picture-alliance/AP Images/E. Gurel

Unfortunately, we have come to expect all kinds of absurd rulings by courts in Turkey. The acquittal and rearrest of philanthropist Osman Kavala on Tuesday is a case in point. When he was acquitted on terror charges for supporting the 2013 Gezi Park protests, his allies fell into each other's arms, crying tears of happiness. Hours later, the public prosecutor presented fresh charges against Kavala: Now, he is accused of having supported the failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 15, 2016.

Erkan Arikan
DW's Erkan ArikanImage: DW/B. Scheid

This turn of events would be almost comical were it not so serious. It is obvious that members of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) support Kavala's acquittal, while other factions must have pressured Erdogan and the overwhelmed judicial system to go after him once more. And so tears of joy for Kavala's acquittal quickly turned to tears of sorrow.

Read more: The freedom of speech stands trial in Turkey

Erdogan's strategy, if he even has one, is simple: shift the blame. This time, he has looked abroad — picking a popular target for international nationalists in the Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros, who funds liberal groups across the world. "There are a number of figures in these countries who want to disrupt our social order," Erdogan told AKP members of parliament on Wednesday. "There was an attempt to transform Soros' influence on the Gezi events into an acquittal." Erdogan has evidently failed to understand the real root causes of the 2013 protests against paving over the Istanbul park and erecting a commercial development. But, even if Erdogan is politically isolated, he is not the type to ever admit a mistake. 

Read more: Gezi Park acquittals give Erdogan opponents hope

On Wednesday, a court had been expected to rule on terror charges against the former director of the Turkish branch of Amnesty International and 10 other human rights activists arrested in 2017 — accusations as absurd as those made against the defendants in the Gezi Park trial. But, surprisingly, the judges postponed. This makes clear once more that the judges and public prosecutors are in disagreement. This initially appears to be a good sign, but it could have a negative impact on the final verdict: We don not know yet whether Erdogan will get involved again.

Read more: Leftist folk musicians go on trial in Turkey on 'trumped up' terror charges

The judges who acquitted Kavala on Tuesday are now being investigated through Turkey's Council of Judges and Prosecutors. It is a safe assumption that they will be accused of supporting the movement led by the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan blames for the 2016 coup. In Turkey these days, almost anything is possible.

DW's editors send out a selection of the day's news and features. Sign up here.

DW's Erkan Arikan
Erkan Arikan Head of DW's Turkish service