Imagine if host Guy A. Lepage was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of release because he wore a red square and criticized the government’s position during the 2012 maple spring.
Posted yesterday at 8:00 am
Unthinkable, you say? Transpose this scenario to Turkey.
On Monday, businessman, philanthropist and progressive activist Osman Kavala received the harshest possible sentence in Turkey’s Penal Code since the country abolished the death penalty. Despite the lack of evidence against him and the dissent of one of the three magistrates who heard the case, the Istanbul court found him guilty of “attempting to overthrow the government” and sentenced him to life imprisonment without remission.
He is accused of fomenting and supporting the protests in Gezi Park in 2013. This movement – which looked like a maple fountain – was trying to abort the construction of a shopping center in the heart of Istanbul. Severely repressed by the authorities, the movement spread across the country and revealed to the world the authoritarian character of the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
At the time, Osman Kavala, known for his struggle for human rights and democracy since the 1980s, denounced the government’s repressive methods.
Denying all allegations that he funded the protests, the heir to a large family business said his material involvement was limited to wearing “pastes and masks” to some of the protesters. “Life imprisonment is an attempted attack on me that cannot be explained for legal reasons,” he told judges on Monday.
Entering France, where he found refuge, his friend Ahmet Insel simply cannot believe the absurdity of the situation. “When Osman was arrested in 2017, he was accused of organizing the events of Gezi. In 2020 he was acquitted of this charge, but on the day of his acquittal he was charged with espionage and returned to the On Monday, the court acquitted him of espionage, but convicted him of the crime from which he was acquitted two years ago, “said Galatasaray University professor Osman Kavala, who has been working with Osman Kavala since the 1970s.
The court also sentenced seven other co-defendants to 18 years in prison. Among them, we find an architect, a documentalist, university professors. The latter were not behind bars at the time of sentencing, but were jailed immediately after their conviction. It was through tears and cries of protest that it all happened.
According to all of France, Ahmet Insel, who is also the target of the case, sees only one explanation. Justice does the dirty work of the Turkish president. “It’s Erdogan’s fault to say, ‘If you move to Turkey to defend civil society, that’s what I can do,'” says the author of several books on Turkish politics.
He recalls that Osman Kavala’s legal problems began after Erdogan gave a speech accusing him of being the representative in Turkey of George Soros, a Hungarian-American billionaire who supports various pro-democracy organizations. George Soros is Vladimir Putin’s madman. Osman Kavala, the Turkish president.
Ahmet Insel is far from the only one to think that the sentences imposed on his friend and co-defendants amount to political manipulation and abuse of power.
In 2019, the European Court of Human Rights ordered Turkey to release Mr Kavala, ruling that there was no evidence against him and that the procedure was deeply flawed. Turkey did not move.
Last October, a group of Western ambassadors, including those from Canada and the United States, wrote to the Turkish president to demand the immediate release of Mr. Kavala. The Turkish president then declared them “persona non grata” in the country, before softening his tone.
On Monday, a chorus of international voices rose to denounce the convictions. Once again, the Turkish president did not get tangled up and told all these beautiful people to take care of their own business. And this even though Turkey risks being expelled from the Council of Europe.
How Russia was preparing to be before retiring from the organization in March.
Beyond the absurdity of the legal process, the story of Osman Kavala should cause concern for another reason. Like Russia, where Vladimir Putin has been writing a science fiction story for eight years in which he is the liberator of Ukraine led by drug-addicted Nazis from the West, Recep Tayyip Erdogan also feeds an absurd story.
According to the Turkish president, his country is the target of attacks by covert forces that want to break its economy and impose its rules. It is in this logic that the trial of Osman Kavala fits. Or the imprisonment of thousands of people, all accused of having played a role in the failed coup in the summer of 2016.
The problem with this kind of political fiction, we learn these days in Ukraine, is that it can go far. Very far.