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Jailed Turkish activist’s marathon trial nears verdict

ISTANBUL (AFP) – One of Turkey’s most famous prisoners appears before court yesterday for what could be his final hearing in a case that has come to define Ankara’s uneasy ties with the West.

Paris-born activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala was a relative unknown when he was detained on his arrival at Istanbul’s airport from a trip to a cultural centre in the Turkish city of Gaziantep in October 2017.

But his continued imprisonment without a conviction has turned the 64-year-old into a hero for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s opponents – and a focus of Western worries about the Turkish leader’s sweeping crackdown on dissent.

Prosecutors demanded last month that Kavala be found guilty of “attempting to overthrow” Erdogan’s government.

The harshest verdict and sentence would see Kavala jailed for life without the possibility of parole.

Kavala’s lawyers told AFP that they expected him to attend the hearing by a video link from his suburban Istanbul prison and for the final session to stretch into Monday.

Kavala now stands accused of financing a wave of 2013 anti-government protests and playing a role in a failed but bloody coup attempt against Erdogan in 2016.

He was acquitted of the first charge in February 2020.

But police detained him before the bearded intellectual had a chance to return home and then charged him with the coup plot.

Osman Kavala’s jailing without a conviction since 2017 has complicated Turkey’s relations with Western allies. PHOTO: AFP