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A Turkish court sentenced businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala to life in prison on charges of attempting to oust the government, in a long-running trial that has underscored the erosion of democratic standards and rule of law in Turkey, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Kavala, one of Turkey’s most famous political prisoners, has been in detention since 2017 over a series of allegations, including conspiracy to overthrow the government and providing financial support for the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Istanbul.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also accused Kavala of being part of a foreign conspiracy against Turkey backed by philanthropist George Soros.
Kavala and his co-defendants have denied the charges and labeled the recent court ruling “an act of assassination by the hand of (the) judiciary.”
The verdict can still be appealed. Meanwhile, the trial has created a lot of friction between Turkey and its Western allies. In 2019, the European Court of Human Rights accused Turkish authorities of violating Kavala’s rights and called for his release.
Turkey rejected the European court’s verdict and threatened to expel a number of Western ambassadors.
Analysts said that Monday’s ruling “further discredited Turkey’s reputation internationally,” adding that it highlights the country’s slide into autocracy during Erdogan’s nearly two decades in power.
The Gezi Park protests saw hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets of Istanbul to protest a government plan to build a replica of Ottoman-era barracks in a park in central Istanbul. The demonstrations soon evolved into a broader movement against the government after police violently cracked down on protesters.
The protests prompted Erdogan to increasingly target his political opponents, a crackdown that intensified after he survived an attempted military coup in 2016.