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Turkey's judiciary does government's bidding

DW's Erkan Arikan
Erkan Arikan
April 26, 2022

Turkish activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala has been sentenced to life behind bars. Though harsh, this verdict is unsurprising. Turkey's judiciary, after all, does the government's bidding, says DW's Erkan Arikan.

Kavala supporters hold placards reading 'The Gezi resistance continues'
Kavala supporters hold placards reading 'The Gezi resistance continues'Image: Ozan Köse/AFP/Getty Images

It's one of those days where I'm left wondering which standards are applied by Turkish courts. While activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala has been acquitted of espionage in connection with the 2016 coup attempt, he has now been sentenced to life in relation to the 2013 Gezi park protests. The court found him guilty of trying to overthrow the government. This ruling is laughable, and as ridiculous as, say, jailing Micky Maus at Guantanamo on terrorism charges.

Erkan Arikan
Erkan Arikan heads DW's Turkish serviceImage: DW/B. Scheid

The ruling leaves me speechless and disappointed. Numerous backers of Kavala, who had come to show their support in court felt similarly, and were moved to tears. Following the announcement of the verdict, supporters began chanting "Taksim is everywhere, resistance is everywhere" in allusion to the Gezi park protests on Taksim square.

No fair trial

Lawyers and legal experts, including Kaval's attorneys, have highlighted that no evidence was presented during the entire trial to substantiate the accusations against Kavala. The European Court of Human Rights similarly criticized a lack of evidence. Numerous urgent calls were therefore issued for Kavala's release.  

Over the years, his attorneys meticulously prepared their defense of Kavala for every single day in court. I spent much time talking to one of his lawyers, Ilkan Koyuncu. He is convinced Kavala never had a fair chance. He was certain Kavala was going to be convicted.

And so, when Kavala received the judges' ruling via videocall, after 1,637 days locked up at Silivri maximum-security prison near Istanbul, it did not come as surprise. Upon hearing the verdict, Kavala replied: "This is an assassination, made possible by the judiciary."

Erdogan affronts West, again

It is apparent that Turkey wishes to make an example of Osman Kavala. President Erdogan wants to show the world that anyone who challenges him will lose. Kavala, in short, could never expect a fair trial. Indeed, opposition lawmaker Ahmet Sik has dismissed the judges in question as robed mafiosi. And he is right.

Kavala's sentencing is an affront against Justitia, the goddess of justice. Turkish judges have been stripped of their balance scales and blindfolds.

This article has been translated from German.