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Turkey rejects appeal to end detention of renowned philanthropist

Osman Kavala, who is accused of orchestrating the Gezi Park protests, has been held without charge for 16 months
Kavala is among 16 defendants who are facing serious charges that include life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (AFP)

Turkey's highest court on Wednesday waved away an appeal to end businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala's pre-trial detention, in a move decried by human rights activists.

The renowned civil rights supporter has been in prison without an indictment for 16 months, accused of having a key role in the 2013 Gezi Park anti-government protests.

Kavala filed an appeal in December 2017 claiming he had been falsely arrested.

In the indictment, seen by the Reuters news agency, Kavala and his co-defendants are accused of preparing for the Gezi Park protests from 2011 and are labelled "top management" organisers.

Amnesty International called the constitutional court's decision "inexplicable" and said it rubbed "salt into the wound of injustice".

'The outlandish allegations against Osman Kavala are an attempt to rewrite history and to silence one of Turkey’s most prominent civil society figures'

- Milena Buyum, Amnesty International

“Osman Kavala’s rights have been abused. He should not have spent a single day behind bars, let alone nearly 600 days. The charges against him must be dropped and he must be immediately released," Milena Buyum, Amnesty's Turkey campaigner, said. 

"The outlandish allegations against Osman Kavala are an attempt to rewrite history and to silence one of Turkey’s most prominent civil society figures."

Yaman Akdeniz, a prominent rights activist in Turkey, also criticised the court's ruling and said that the European Court of Human Rights should consider reviewing Kavala's case. 

Kavala is among 16 defendants who are facing charges that could see them handed life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Prior to his arrest, Kavala was chairman of the Anadolu Kultur (Anatolian Culture) foundation, a non-profit organisation founded in 2002, which aims to "develop mutual understanding and dialogue and overcome regional differences and prejudices" in Turkey and the wider region.

The 2013 Gezi Park protests originally began as a demonstration against the demolition of one of the last green spaces in Istanbul, but quickly spiralled into protests against then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's rule.

More than 3 million people were involved in the demonstrations across the country.