Turkish court approves new indictment against philanthropist Kavala
By Ali Kucukgocmen
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish court has approved an indictment accusing philanthropist Osman Kavala of helping organize a coup attempt in 2016, his lawyers said eight months after he was acquitted in 2013 for funding nationwide protests was.
In Reuters' new indictment, Kavala is charged with collaborating with Henri Barkey, a well-known Turkish scholar in the United States. The indictment accuses Barkey of having ties to the network of US-based Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating the coup.
Kavala, Barkey and Gulen have denied any involvement.
Kavala, who has been in prison for nearly three years, was acquitted in February along with eight other charges related to the Gezi protests that threatened the power of the then Prime Minister, now President Tayyip Erdogan.
A court ordered the release of Kavala in February, but on the same day a new arrest warrant was issued against him for the failed coup.
Turkey's western allies and right-wing groups have called for Kavala to be released and have expressed concern that his charges point to the politicization of the Turkish judicial system.
In a statement, Kavala's lawyers said the court had resolved the charges, which they believed were no more than "alleged fiction" and not based on concrete evidence.
Nacho Sanchez Amor, the European Parliament's rapporteur on Turkey, said the charges "without real evidence are outrageous". He said it "despises" a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights calling for Kavala's immediate release.
Amnesty International called the charges "absurd".
In an email reply, Barkey said the charges, which contain allegations first made against him in Turkish government-affiliated media four years ago, were "outright forgery".
He and Kavala are accused of trying to overthrow the constitutional order. Conviction on the charges results in life imprisonment without parole. Another charge is espionage, which carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
The indictment states that Kavala and Barkey spoke twice by phone on October 8, 2016, nearly three months after the failed July 15 coup. It is said that signals on Barkey and Kavala's phones came from the same area many times between 2013 and 2016, and that they met in an Istanbul restaurant on July 18, 2016.
Barkey said the two met in the restaurant and had a brief chat. "It was based on a chance encounter that officers made up this absurd story," he said, adding that at other times their phones could easily have been in the same district of a crowded city without meeting.
The indictment also states that Barkey left a bell with a map of the US state of Pennsylvania where Gulen lives at the reception of a hotel in Istanbul where he was organizing a meeting at the time of the coup attempt.
Barkey said he arranged the meeting to save travel expenses for attendees, most of whom he said were from Turkey and the Middle East. He said he didn't leave a bell.
"You cannot defend yourself against such inventions," he said of the allegations in the prosecution.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; editing by Mark Heinrich)
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