June 24, 2019 - 10:16 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - A group of leading Turkish businessmen, academics and artists, including prominent businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala, will go on trial Monday, June 24, accused of seeking to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the mass "Gezi Park" protests of 2013, AFP reports.
All 16 face life imprisonment if convicted in a case dismissed as a witch-hunt by rights activists, who say there is not "a shred of evidence" against the suspects.
A respected figure in intellectual circles, Kavala is chairman of the Anatolian Culture Foundation, which seeks to bridge ethnic and regional divides through art, including with neighbouring Armenia, with which Turkey has no diplomatic ties.
His detention since November 2017 has made him a symbol of what critics say is a crackdown on civil society.
Kavala is accused of orchestrating and financing the protests, which began over government plans to build over Gezi Park, one of the few green spaces left in Istanbul.
The protests snowballed into a nationwide movement that marked the first serious challenge to Erdogan's brand of Islamic conservatism and grandiose development projects.
The 657-page indictment seeks to paint the protests as a foreign-directed conspiracy with links to the Arab Spring, which, ironically, the Turkish government supported.