The trial of a Turkish activist has resumed following a diplomatic snafu.
On Friday, the trial of imprisoned civil society leader Osman Kavala continues for the first time since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to expel ten Western ambassadors who urged for his release.
Erdogan is facing one of the most difficult economic tests of his presidency since 2003, with the Turkish lira plunging to record lows versus the dollar.
The 64-year-old civil society activist and businessman is accused of sponsoring anti-government protests in 2013 and participating in the 2016 coup attempt. He has been imprisoned without charge for four years.
He might be imprisoned for the rest of his life without the prospect of parole if convicted.
To Erdogan’s supporters, the benefactor has become a symbol of the broad crackdown Erdogan waged after the attempted coup.
Kavala, who denies the charges, will skip Friday’s hearing after his case provoked a diplomatic standoff last month when ten embassies, including the US, France, and Germany, warned his ongoing imprisonment “cast a shadow” over Turkey’s democracy and judicial system in a very uncommon statement.
Erdogan vowed to expel the diplomats, accusing them of attempting to “deliver a lesson” to Turkey.
The case of Kavala could drive the Council of Europe’s human rights watchdog to hold its first disciplinary hearings against Turkey at a four-day conference that ends on December 2 — a procedure the court has only used once before.
Turkey has been handed a last warning to comply with a 2019 European Court of Human Rights order to free Kavala pending trial, according to the watchdog.
The diplomatic row was resolved after the US and several other countries released comments stating that they adhered to the UN convention prohibiting ambassadors from interfering in the domestic affairs of their host countries.
Erdogan has frequently compared Kavala to Hungarian-born US investor George Soros, and in October referred to him as a “Soros leftover,” prompting a harsh condemnation from the Paris-born philanthropist.
“The president’s insulting and defamatory words against a person who has not been convicted and whose trial is still proceeding represent an attack on human dignity,” Kavala said.
Tolga Aytore, his lawyer, told AFP that he had asked not to attend the session. “Even if he is summoned, he will refuse to give a defense.” Kavala, who had previously watched the hearings in Istanbul’s main court via video link from his cell in Silivri on the outskirts of the city, said he had lost faith in the fairness of the proceedings.
“Under these conditions, a fair trial is no longer possible.” The Washington Newsday Brief News is a daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C.