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Turkey detains prominent rights activist

October 19, 2017

Turkish police have detained prominent businessman and rights activist Osman Kavala for questioning. Kavala's lawyer said it was unclear what his client is accused of.

Türkei Geschäftsmann Osman Kavala
Image: Imago/Zumapress

Turkish media reported on Thursday that prominent civil society figure and businessman Osman Kavala was detained late Wednesday at Istanbul's Atatürk Airport upon returning from the southeastern city of Gaziantep.

Kavala has been remanded in custody for seven days ahead of a court hearing, Agence France-Presse news agency reported, citing his lawyer Ferat Cagil.

Cagil said the reason for the detention remained unclear.

"The case is confidential. Whatever is said would be speculative now. We will find out when he testifies," he said.

Tens of thousands of people have been arrested and many more dismissed from government jobs in Turkey as part of a massive crackdown by the government following last year's failed military coup.

The arrests, including those of several Germans, have sparked international concerns about the deterioration of democracy and free speech under increasingly authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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Kavala is the chairman of the Anadolu Kültür (Anatolian Culture) center, which campaigns for rights and cultural diversity including Kurdish issues. Local media reported that Kavala had gone to Gaziantep to discuss a project with Germany's cultural outreach organization, the Goethe Institute.

Kavala was taken to the city's counter-terrorism police department, the T24 news website cited his lawyer Cagil as saying. Police took  computers from Anadolu Kultur's offices, it added.

"Very disturbing news that Osman Kavala has been detained in Istanbul," The European Parliament's rapporteur on Turkey, Kati Piri, wrote on Twitter.

France's foreign ministry also expressed concern at Kavala's detention. It called him "one of the most important and respected figures of the Turkish cultural scene and of civil society."

"France, like other European countries, regularly cooperates with Mr. Kavala, who is a regular interlocutor to our embassy. (We) will be very attentive to developments in this case," foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes Romatet-Espagne told reporters.

ap/ng (Reuters, AFP, AP)