Hope to despair: Human rights activist released only to be rearrested on different charges

International NGOs have strongly condemned the rearrest of Turkish human rights activist Osman Kavala just hours after a Turkish court cleared him and eight others of trying to overthrow the government in 2013, saying it was an injustice.

In a strongly-worded statement, Amnesty International said this decision “smacks of deliberate and calculated cruelty and called on the Turkish authorities to immediately reverse the decision and set him free.

“To have been granted release after almost two-and-a-half years behind bars only to have the door to freedom so callously slammed in his face is a devastating blow for Kavala, his family and all who stand for justice in Turkey,” Milena Buyum, Amnesty International’s Turkey campaigner, said.

Kavala was rearrested over charges related to a 2016 attempted coup which left 250 people killed and more than 1,400 wounded.

His detention comes less than 24 hours after a judge said there was insufficient evidence against the nine people accused of trying to overthrow the government – including Kavala – over their alleged role in the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul in 2013.

These protests initially were intended to contest the urban development plan for Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park and grew after a violent eviction of a sit-in. Supporting protests and strikes took place across Turkey, protesting a wide range of concerns at the core of which were issues of freedom of the press, of expression, among others.

In December, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Kavala had been arbitrarily detained and called for his immediate release. His release was met with joy and celebrations around the world as many had been campaigning for his freedom. However, it was shortlived.

“This latest episode of malicious detention has dashed the hopes of Kavala and those of his family who were waiting to welcome him into their arms,” Buyum said.

Amnesty International said this “cynical and outrageous re-detention” only deepened “our resolve to continue to fight” on Kavala’s behalf.

Similarly, IFEX – an umbrella organisation for media freedom organisations – described the rearrest as an injustice, which was also condemned by PEN International.

Kavala has been behind bars for 840 days as part of Gezi trial and was expected to be freed from Silivri Prison in İstanbul on Tuesday evening.

The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office released a statement soon after the verdict, saying it was going to file an appeal and that a detention warrant had been issued.

Former European Parliament Rapporteur to Turkey Kati Piri described the decision as madness.

“Incredible… No words for this insane and cruel turn in the case of Kavala. After 2.5 years innocently in jail, he was acquitted this morning in the Gezi Trial from 2013, and then Istanbul prosecutor decides to re-arrest him for the coup attempt in 2016.”

                           
                               
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