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US urges Turkey to release jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala

Ankara hits back, accuses Washington of not respecting the country's rule of law and due process
Osman Kavala was first arrested in November 2017 and charged with organising the 2013 Gezi Park protests.
Osman Kavala was first arrested in November 2017 and charged with organising the 2013 Gezi Park protests (AFP/File photo)

The United States has urged Turkey to "comply with its own commitment to justice and rule of law" and release Osman Kavala, a philanthropist and major civil society figure who has been detained for more than three years.

Cale Brown, a deputy spokesman for the State Department, said in a statement on Monday that Washington expects Ankara to pursue a "just, transparent, and speedy resolution to his case" as Kavala marks "1,000 days in detention without being convicted of any crime".

Turkey reacted angrily to the statement, accusing the US of not respecting the country's rule of law and due process.

"The US State Department's call for giving an end to Osman Kavala's imprisonment is in discordance with the principle of rule of law," Hami Aksoy, a spokesman for Turkey's foreign ministry, said in a statement.

"Everybody has to respect the ongoing court case," Aksoy said.

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He also pointed out that Washington's "interference" in the case was inconsistent with its failure to comply with Turkey's extradition request for US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara accuses of spearheading a 2016 coup attempt.

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"Turkey is a state of rule of law. Nobody and no country can give orders to the Turkish courts over legal processes," he said.

Kavala was first arrested in November 2017 and charged with organising the 2013 Gezi Park protests. 

The protests originally began as a demonstration against the demolition of one of the last green spaces in Istanbul, but quickly spiralled into an expression of opposition to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's rule.

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

Late last year, the European Court of Human Rights called for Kavala's release, ruling that his pre-trial detention was unlawful.

After being acquitted in February, he was detained just hours later by police for alleged links with the failed coup attempt in 2016.

Critics of Erdogan's government have repeatedly questioned the independence of Turkish courts, especially since a crackdown following the failed 2016 coup attempt.

Since then, around 80,000 people have been jailed pending trial and 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others have been sacked or suspended.

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