Turkey sidelines Gezi trial judge who voted for Osman Kavala’s release

The institution responsible for Turkish judicial appointments has sidelined a judge who twice voted for to release on bail Osman Kavala, a philanthropist charged with terrorism offences and organising the 2013 Gezi protests, the biggest anti-government demonstrations since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan came to power in 2003, Cumhuriyet newspaper said on Wednesday.

Kavala and 15 other suspects face a total of 47,520 years in prison on charges of attempting to violently overthrow the government. Kavala, who has been in jail for more than 20 months, is accused of being the chief conspirator behind the demonstrations, which began as a small sit-in against the destruction of an Istanbul park, but mushroomed into nationwide protests when police used batons and tear gas to clear the area. Eleven people were killed in the demonstrations that followed.

In the first hearing of the case on June 24, Mahmut Başbuğ replaced the head of the judges’ board overseeing the case who had taken leave of absence, and was later officially appointed to the position. In that hearing and during a second one on July 18, Başbuğ voted in favour of Kavala’s release on bail, but in both hearings, the court ruled by majority to continue his pre-trial detention. Cumhuriyet said Başbuğ had been targeted by pro-government media since the first hearing.

The Council of Judges and Prosecutors in its decree established two boards of judges under Istanbul’s 30th Criminal Court and gave the responsibility of overseeing the Gezi trial to the first board and moved Başbuğ and three other judges to the second board. The three other judges in the first hearing ruled in favour of the release of Yiğit Aksakoğlu, another defendant who spent almost seven months in prison. 

The third hearing of the case is scheduled for Oct. 8 and 9.