Kavala, found guilty of attempting to overthrow the government, is a cause celebre for opponents of President Erdogan.

A Turkish court has sentenced rights activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala to life in prison without the possibility of parole on highly controversial charges of attempting to overthrow the government.

The verdict on Monday stems from allegations that he bankrolled a wave of anti-government protests in 2013 and played a role in the 2016 attempted military coup in the country.

The case will now go to the court of appeals and could continue to the Supreme Court.

On Monday, Kavala was acquitted on separate espionage charges.

Paris-born Kavala’s prolonged imprisonment without conviction has made the 64-year-old a symbol of what critics and human rights observers call President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on dissent.

Osman Kavala speaking
Prosecutors accused Osman Kavala of trying to violently overthrow the government [File: Reuters]

He was first arrested on entering Turkey in October 2017. He is currently being held at a prison in Silivri.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has called the case politically motivated.

The accused have said the Gezi protests were protected under free speech. The protests began in 2013 as a small demonstration at an Istanbul park and grew into nationwide anti-government unrest, in which eight protesters and two police officers were killed.

The ECHR has also said that prosecutors lack evidence that Kavala played a role in the 2016 attempted coup, which was carried out by a faction of the Turkish armed forces and led to the deaths of 241 people.

Kavala had previously been acquitted along with eight others in the Gezi trial, but the acquittal was overturned last year and the case was combined with the other charges against him.

More to follow.

Source: Al Jazeera

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