March 10, 2020 / 5:31 AM / a month ago

Turkey issues new arrest warrant for jailed businessman Kavala

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish court issued a new arrest warrant on Monday against Turkish businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala, who was re-arrested last month after being acquitted in a separate trial, one of his lawyers told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: Ayse Bugra (L), wife of Osman Kavala, Turkish businessman and philanthropist, leaves a restaurant after learning that the Istanbul prosecutor's office has demanded the detention of her husband, in Silivri, near Istanbul, Turkey, February 18, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo

Kavala had been cleared of charges related to nationwide protests in 2013, but was re-arrested the following day, accused of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order in a failed coup in 2016.

On Monday, a second arrest warrant was issued in relation to the coup attempt, this time for espionage.

Court documents seen by Reuters said Kavala had been in contact with a man alleged to have spied for foreign governments.

Kavala denies all the charges. After his re-arrest last month, he said President Tayyip Erdogan had intervened to prevent his release from prison.

“The government should find a different occupation for itself,” Kavala’s lawyer Ilkan Koyuncu said.

The cases against Kavala have been criticised by Turkey’s Western allies and rights activists who say the charges are political.

“#OsmanKavala must be released, not face further fabricated charges that are manifestly unfounded,” Milena Buyum, Turkey campaigner for Amnesty International, said on Twitter.

EUROPEAN COURT RULING

In December, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said there was insufficient evidence to support the accusation that Kavala had been involved in the abortive coup. That ruling will become final on Tuesday.

Deniz Tolga Aytore, another lawyer for Kavala, was quoted in the court records as saying that the new warrant was aimed at circumventing the implementation of the ECHR ruling.

The independence of Turkey’s judiciary has been hotly debated in recent years. Critics say court rulings are influenced by politicians but Erdogan and his ruling AK Party say the judiciary makes its decisions independently.

Ankara says the coup attempt was carried out by supporters of the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999. Gulen has denied any involvement.

Since the putsch, authorities have carried out a sustained security crackdown, jailing about 80,000 people, dismissing 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others, and closing some 180 media organisations.

Ankara says the clampdown is necessary in the light of the threat Turkey faces.

Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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