ISTANBUL – A Turkish court has approved an indictment accusing philanthropist Osman Kavala of helping organise an attempted coup in 2016, his lawyers said, eight months after he was acquitted on charges of financing nationwide protests in 2013.
In the new indictment seen by Reuters, Kavala is accused of collaborating with Henri Barkey, a prominent Turkey scholar in the United States. The indictment accuses Barkey of links to the network of U.S.-based Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, which Ankara accuses of orchestrating the coup.
Kavala, Barkey and Gulen have all denied any involvement.
Kavala, in jail for nearly three years, was acquitted in February along with eight others of charges related to the Gezi protests, which threatened the grip on power of then-premier, now President Tayyip Erdogan.
A court ordered Kavala’s release in February, but the same day a new detention warrant was issued for him related to the failed coup.
Turkey’s Western allies and rights groups have called for Kavala’s release and voiced concern that his indictment points to a politicisation of Turkey’s justice system.
In a statement, Kavala’s lawyers said the court had cleared the indictment, which they said was no more than “presumptive fiction” and was not based on any concrete evidence.
Nacho Sanchez Amor, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, said the indictment “without any real evidence is outrageous”. He said it “disdains” a European Court of Human Rights ruling that called for Kavala’s immediate release.
Amnesty International called the indictment “absurd”.
In an emailed response, Barkey said the indictment, which includes accusations first levelled against him in Turkish pro-government media four years ago, was a “complete fabrication”.
He and Kavala are charged with attempting to overthrow the constitutional order. Conviction on the charge carries a life sentence without parole. A further charge is espionage, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in jail.
The indictment says Kavala and Barkey spoke twice by phone on Oct. 8, 2016, nearly three months after the failed July 15 coup. It says that many times between 2013 and 2016, signals on Barkey and Kavala’s phones came from the same area and that they met at an Istanbul restaurant on July 18, 2016.
Barkey said the two had run into each other at the restaurant and chatted briefly. “On the basis of a chance encounter, officials concocted this absurd story,” he said, adding that their phones could easily have been in the same district of a crowded city at other times without them meeting.
The indictment also says Barkey left a bell featuring a map of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, where Gulen lives, at the reception of an Istanbul hotel where he organised a meeting at the time of the coup attempt.
Barkey said he arranged the meeting to save on travel costs for the attendees, most of whom he said came from Turkey and the Middle East. He said he did not leave any bell behind.
“You cannot defend yourself against such concoctions,” he said of the assertions in the indictment.