Erdogan says Turkish courts have proven their independence by convicting Kavala | world news
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan said the decision to jail philanthropist Osman Kavala for life for anti-government protests in 2013 showed Turkey’s courts were independent.
Erdogan said the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) – which had called for an end to Kavala’s detention without conviction – as well as Ankara’s Western allies should abide by the court’s verdict.
After being held without conviction for 4½ years, he was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without parole on Monday for allegedly organizing and funding nationwide protests in 2013.
Seven others were sentenced to 18-year terms. All have denied the charges. They say the protests erupted spontaneously and were protected by constitutional rights, denying having organized them.
Ankara’s Western allies, rights groups and the ECHR say Monday’s decision was politically motivated and aimed to intimidate Erdogan’s opponents. Opposition parties also criticized the verdict.
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Critics say Turkish courts are under the influence of Erdogan and his AK party, they claim.
Erdogan rejected this again on Wednesday.
“Our judiciary has proven its independence by not giving in to blackmail from those outside Turkey and their spokespersons,” he said.
He also targeted Kavala personally, comparing him to billionaire George Soros and claiming he was the “behind-the-scenes coordinator” of the protests.
“The decision about one person left some circles uneasy. This man was Turkey’s Soros and the behind-the-scenes coordinator of the Gezi events,” he said.
Rights groups say the case was aimed at criminalizing the so-called Gezi protests and making it look like they were being funded by foreign powers.
Turkey is now at risk of being suspended by the Council of Europe’s rights watchdog.
Ankara’s Western allies have repeatedly called for Kavala’s release, prompting Erdogan to threaten to expel 10 ambassadors last year.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)
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