Turkey’s Court of Cassation cited a gathering in memoriam Hrant Dink as criminal activity, and as evidence against philanthropist Osman Kavala and newly elected MP Can Atalay in its assessment of the case against the Gezi Protests.
“These conversations show that the Open Society Foundation has transferred money to Anadolu Kültür in a continuous manner during the Gezi Events, and that the process was conducted in communion,” daily BirGün cited the top court as saying in its letter of notification on Thursday.
Kavala founded Anadolu Kültür in 2002, and has supported civil society initiatives through the foundation ever since.
In the conversation the court cited, Kavala says the foundation can “arrange something” as a small budget for the 19 January 2014 memorial service for Dink, who was murdered by a Turkish nationalist with ties to the deep state in 2007. Dink was the editor in chief for Agos newspaper, one of the few Armenian language publications left in the country.
Kavala’s conversation was with Çiğdem Mater, a film maker and activist who is currently behind bars for attempting to overthrow the government over her role in the Gezi Park protests of 2013, when a small sit-in to protect an urban park in Istanbul was targeted by police brutality and snowballed into the largest anti-government protest in the country’s history. The protests continued for several months and drew four million people to the streets in 80 of Turkey’s 81 provinces.
Another activist convicted in the so-called Gezi Trials is lawyer Can Atalay, who was elected to parliament in the elections in May. Atalay should have been released from prison upon his election, but remains behind bars unlawfully and in violation of past rulings by the Constitutional Court.
The Court of Cassation cited another conversation, this time between Atalay and Mater, as evidence of criminal activity. In the snippet, Atalay asks Mater where the organisers meeting for the 19 January memorial will take place.
“It appears that the case that attempts to put Gezi on trial also tried to criminalise memorials and the search for justice for 19 January,” the Dink family said in a statement condemning the court’s citation.
“This means nothing but proof that they have no evidence to speak of, because there is no crime to speak of,” the family continued.
Mater and Kavala were among the group called Friends of Hrant who fought to bring the Dink murder to light, the family said.
“The people they are putting on trial are people who have no dreams outside of democracy, justice and equality for this country. We hope and demand that justice prevail,” they said.
The court’s letter “contains more grave slanders and demonstrates an even more blatant disregard for legal principles”, Kavala said in a statement he sent from prison.
“As per the Prosecutor’s Office, even in the absence of evidence that a crime has been committed, the court can convict a person solely based on the determination of their intent to commit a crime. Manifestation of this trend of interpreting intent in criminal law, which starkly contradicts the principles and rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, at the level of the Court of Cassation constitutes a dangerous development for our nation,” Kavala said.
Mater said the possible disregard of international conventions and the Turkish constitution by the Court of Cassation “will open very dark doors for the law”.
Mater and Atalay have been under arrest since April 2022 to serve 18-year prison sentences, while Kavala has spent more than five years behind bars despite several ECHR rulings for his immediate release. In December, an appeals court upheld the convictions. The case is currently under assessment at the Court of Cassation.
Apart from the assessment of the appeal, the Court of Cassation “must issue a ruling today under normal circumstances” regarding Atalay’s release due to parliamentary immunity, his lawyer Deniz Özen said in a live broadcast on Thursday. According to Turkish law, appeals for any prisoner’s release must be answered within three days.