SILIVRI, Turkey (Reuters)–Prosecutors on Tuesday demanded the re-arrest of Turkish businessman Osman Kavala in connection with the failed 2016 coup, hours after he was acquitted over his alleged role in the Gezi Park protests of 2013, a document seen by Reuters showed.
The acquittal of Kavala and eight others over the demonstrations that posed a major challenge to then-premier, now president Tayyip Erdogan was surprising in a case that had drawn criticism from Western allies and rights groups.
The fresh detention request by Istanbul prosecutors came as scores of people including lawmakers, other defendants and supporters were waiting for Kavala to be released at a roadside restaurant near the Silivri prison complex where he was held.
“It was…Erdogan who ordered the arrest of Kavala, and it was him who ordered his release today. We have been waiting for his release for 5 hours, and now they are making up charges related to the coup,” said pro-Kurdish HDP lawmaker Garo Paylan.
“Nobody is safe against this judicial cruelty in Turkey. I am seriously worried about arbitrary judicial decisions and trumped up charges,” he added. There was no immediate update from judicial authorities on Kavala’s status.
In court earlier, applause erupted and some people cried in disbelief when the decision was announced. A guilty verdict had been widely expected in the case, regarded as a test of justice in Turkey.
Kavala, also a prominent philanthropist, was ordered to be set free after more than two years in jail. The European Court of Human Rights in December demanded his immediate release, saying there was a lack of reasonable suspicion that he had committed a crime.
“Of course today’s decision is the right one (but) this has been a sham process. We’ve seen Turkey’s justice system turned into an absurd, cruel theatre,” Human Rights Watch Turkey director Emma Sinclair-Webb told Reuters.
In 2013, hundreds of thousands marched in Istanbul and elsewhere in Turkey against plans approved by Erdogan to build a replica Ottoman barracks in the city’s Gezi Park.
Eight young protesters and a police officer were killed and 5,000 people were injured in the unrest.