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Osman Kavala: Germany summons Turkish envoy over verdict

April 29, 2022

Germany has harshly condemned a Turkish court's decision to hand prominent philanthropist Osman Kavala a life sentence. Turkey has accused Berlin of interfering in its domestic affairs.

Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala
Kavala founded Istanbul-based arts and culture nonprofit Anadolu KulturImage: Anadolu Culture Center/REUTERS

Germany summoned Turkey's ambassador in Berlin on Friday after a Turkish court earlier this week sentenced prominent philanthropist Osman Kavala to life in prison without parole.

What do we know so far?

A German Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the government made clear its position on the issue with the Turkish envoy during talks on Friday morning.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has urged Turkey to release Kavala immediately.

The spokesperson urged other EU member states to take similar measures toward Ankara. They said the verdict against Kavala stood in "blatant contradiction" to Turkey's membership in the Council of Europe. 

Kavala gets life in prison: DW's Dorian Jones

How did Turkey react?

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag lashed out at the decision by Berlin, saying it was an "open attempt to interfere in Turkey's internal affairs." Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency reported that Turkey summoned Germany's ambassador to Ankara in retaliation.

Turkey has accused of Kavala of financing anti-government protests in Istanbul's Gezi Park. The Turkish government also alleges that Kavala is tied to a 2016 coup attempt.

Both the 2013 Gezi Park protests and the 2016 coup attempt were challenges to the rule of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has strongly criticized Kavala and labeled him "Turkey's Soros."

Erdogan ultimately let riot police squash the Gezi Park protests. In the aftermath of the coup attempt, tens of thousands of people in the military, police and civil service were arrested for alleged ties to the supposed mastermind, Erdogan's former ally in exile in the US, Fethullah Gulen.

Kavala, who made his fortune in the publishing business, has rebuked the allegations. The 64-year-old was arrested by Turkish authorities in Istanbul in 2017 after he returned from a trip in the southern city of Gaziantep and has been kept in custody since then.

The US and rights groups such as Human Rights Watch also condemned Turkey's decision to hand Kavala a life sentence. Amnesty International has labeled the verdict a "devastating blow" for human rights.

wd/msh (AP, Reuters)