Translated by Melissa Clissold
Osman Kavala, who was acquitted for the Gezi protests, was later arrested for alleged involvement in the July 15 coup attempt, and now he has been arrested again on charges of espionage. What is behind the state’s hatred of Kavala?
Hello, good day. Osman Kavala has been under arrest for 861 days, it has been quite a while. He was detained on October 18, 2017, and arrested on November 1, 2017. Yesterday, another new arrest warrant was issued against Osman Kavala. This time he was arrested on charges of “espionage”. We know that he was first detained for a long time, a Gezi Case was created when it was not clear why he would be tried, and other defendants were added with him too.
He was acquitted along with all the other defendants; Right after he was released, a new lawsuit was filed against him for joining the July 15 coup attempt and he was arrested again. While the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) about him was awaiting to be determined, this time he was immediately arrested for espionage. All the claims of him spying and being involved in the July 15 coup attempt are based on him supposedly meeting Henri Barkey who is originally from Turkey but is now an American citizen. It was somehow proved that the claim was not true, but Henri Barkey is already a well-known name in Turkey. He is someone that is mentioned quite often in Turkey and someone who is well-known by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) In fact, Bülent Arınç had even said: “If this is a crime, we all have to be tried.”
Why is this happening now? Why can’t Osman Kavala gain the freedom that he deserves? The first reason is, of course, the lack of an independent and impartial judiciary in Turkey, a judiciary that is bound up in political will, dependent on the government and the ruling administration – when I say administration, of course I mean Erdoğan- and the administration disliking Osman Kavala. It is not enough of a reason to create so much suffering just for disliking someone.
When we examine this a little more, what has happened to us in recent years in Turkey, what some people have done and not done, we also see what has not been able to be done. Osman Kavala is wanted to be charged for what he actually did; However, since the things he has done are not a crime according to the Turkish Penal Code, other reasons are being found instead. So Osman Kavala, is one of the most important names today in Turkish “civil society”. Interestingly, he was not a well-known name except within a very limited environment until he was put on trial – that is, before he was detained.
He wasn’t someone who wanted his name to be known, he didn’t want to be popular, give interviews, etc., but he was someone that everyone knew when it came to issues about civil society, culture, fundamental rights and freedoms, and the Kurdish issue, etc. In this sense, he was also someone well known by the state. During the times when the state had adopted a view to solve the Kurdish problem peacefully, Osman Kavala’s path had been opened; Yet later on, when the AKP government turned to security policies, this time what happened to many of the old peaceful solution supporters also happened to Osman Kavala. However, the only issue here is not the Kurdish issue, but there are many other aspects.
On different occasions, I touched on these during the broadcasts I made about Osman Kavala. For example, I have the text of a broadcast I made on September 21, 2018. “The Osman Kavala Incident and the state of the Bourgeoisie in Turkey.” I had made a broadcast where I had mentioned that Osman Kavala had come from a bourgeois family, was well-educated, but despite his upbringing, during his youth, he adopted leftist views but he also never broke ties with his family; He even took on some of the responsibilities of the family company and executed the two together.
I had mentioned – but I would like to stress this point again – in the broadcast that I had made that Osman Kavala, was doing things that the AKP government in Turkey and Erdoğan did not like. Although he is rich, although he is someone coming from a bourgeois background, despite being a capitalist, he has been making sacrifices for the community here in Turkey, and he does not limit actions according to the lines that the state has drawn up for him. As far as I know, Osman Kavala has no involvement in any sort of activism that directly opposes the state.
The government is trying to show this and trying to create a crime from here. We have a second aspect that comes up here: That is the fact that Kavala has focused only on civil society activities and has not taken a politicized stance while doing so. Of course, every civil society activity is also a political activity, this is true; but activism, opposition etc., There has been no such emphasis on these aspects – as far as I have seen in his work. He was much more focused on his work; So let’s say this: He was someone who wanted to help others in the ways that he could.
In this sense, he is a bad example because he has demonstrated that in Turkey, one could very well support democracy, basic rights and freedoms, even if it is to the detriment of his/her economic interests. As we know, Erdoğan has tried to create a new bourgeoisie under his authority, yet on the other hand, also formed an alliance with the existing bourgeoisie by giving them opportunities that would pave their way and protect them – and their employees – from potential threats. This alliance is ongoing. At times, Erdoğan subjects them to a series of threats – taxes for example – in order to get them in line. In this process, we have witnessed them obey Erdoğan.
There are some statements made by the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) from time to time, but a lot of these statements are abstract; The statements they make are not really useful in any way. They have never presented an effective stance against the increased authoritarianism in Turkey, the moving away from democracy, departing from the rule of law, fundamental rights and freedoms of extortion, the infringements on the media. And sometimes they did not even want to present such a stance… In such a situation, Osman Kavala was a really “bad example” and had to be punished in a sense. Another aspect where he continued to be a bad example is, of course, that throughout this process, since October 18, 2017, he has not changed his stance and has not submitted to authority.
This is also very interesting; that is, as far as I can see, he did not attempt to change his position and apologise through mediators, etc. If he had, perhaps it might have paid off. But on the other hand, he never made very sharp comments or statements in court, in letters he sent or in his answers to questions asked. He did a very good job of talking within a context of the absence of law. This is another reason for the anger and hatred of the state towards him. So let me say this: If Kavala had made very harsh comments, and made a mess of things, maybe this situation might have evolved differently. His calmness angers those who are unfairly punishing him, as far as I can see.
Another issue is of course – it is something that I have mentioned in many broadcasts: The fact that Kavala is well known especially in Europe, and that the leaders of the European Union (EU) are lobbying for him – this is something that especially annoys Erdoğan. It brings the situation to a point where it is assumed “If they are truly trying to protect him, there must be something to all this.”; However, this is not the case. We are simply talking about someone who has not been respected and revered enough in Turkey, in the way he deserves.
His relationship with the very famous George Soros, the fact that he is the manager of the Açık Toplum Vakfı (Open Society Foundation) and the fact that being against Soros is something that brings together everyone from right to left, from islamists to nationalists and socialists.
The state had already made a huge strategic mistake by making him the number one defendant in the Gezi Case. Because they had to put him in a case, they put him in the Gezi Case. But Gezi was an incident that a very large fraction considered legitimate and that people embodied.
Very interestingly, there were a lot of people who saw Gezi as legitimate but did not like Osman Kavala’s position, his relationship with the Open Society Foundation etc., in fact, there were some that hated this. The state made a mistake here. The Gezi Trial ended in acquittal, now, much more absurd 15 July and espionage charges have been launched. Gezi up to a certain point – and Osman Kavala is not someone who hides the fact that he supported Gezi – but the fact that he is being arrested and put on trial for July 15 and espionage – and we still have not seen him be put on trial – we see no support from those fractions in Turkey that support democracy in Turkey, fundamental rights and freedoms.
At this point, there is a very sad example: Ali Babacan, who announced his party yesterday, gave a very sad answer when asked about Osman Kavala on FOX TV. He said, “You arrest him first and then you discharge him. Do you think foreign investors will come to this country?” Well, they will continue to come; It cannot be said that foreign investors care too much about law; Of course, there are also areas where they observe the law, but there is also the fact that there is huge foreign investment in places far from the law. The leader of a new party that has come with the promise of freedom in Turkey cannot even give this following reply to the question of Osman Kavala: “Every second that Osman Kavala is under arrest, that is an infringement upon fundamental rights and freedoms and is against the state of law.” We’re in a country that cannot present this answer. Let this be our shame and pain.
Yes, that is all I have to say. Good day.