Europe

Osman Kavala: Turkey 're-arrests' activist hours after acquittal

A journalist stands in front of a poster featuring jailed businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala in October 2018 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Kavala spent more than two years in pre-trial detention

A prominent Turkish businessman and human rights activist has been re-arrested, just hours after he was acquitted of trying to overthrow the government, Turkish state media says.

A court ordered Osman Kavala's immediate release earlier on Tuesday, after dropping charges against him and eight others over protests in 2013.

He had spent over two years in prison.

But hours later, a warrant was issued against him over a 2016 coup attempt which triggered a massive crackdown.

Rights group Amnesty International said Mr Kavala's renewed detention "smacks of deliberate and calculated cruelty".

"To have been granted release after almost two-and-a-half years behind bars only to have the door to freedom so callously slammed in his face is a devastating blow for Osman Kavala, his family and all who stand for justice in Turkey," the group's Turkey campaigner said in a statement.

Mr Kavala's earlier trial drew strong criticism from Turkey's Western allies.

In December, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Mr Kavala had been arbitrarily detained and called for his immediate release.

What are the new charges?

The new case against Mr Kavala relates to a failed coup attempt in July 2016, in which 250 people were killed and more than 1,400 wounded.

Since then, tens of thousands of people have been detained, with thousands more fired or suspended from public service.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed the coup on US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and people he accuses of being his followers, although Mr Gulen denies any involvement.

What happened on Tuesday?

In a surprise ruling earlier on Tuesday, the judge had said there was insufficient evidence against the nine people accused of trying to overthrow the government - including Mr Kavala - over their alleged role in the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul in 2013.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Activists outside the court celebrated the court's decision

Cheers could be heard in the courtroom as the verdict was read out.

The 2013 protests initially broke out over plans to redevelop Istanbul's Gezi Park but transformed into wider unrest against then-Prime Minister Erdogan, which spread to other parts of the country.

A number of people were killed and thousands of others injured.

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