December 24, 2019 - 17:40 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - A Turkish court on Tuesday, December 24 ignored calls to release a businessman charged with seeking to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, despite a ruling by Europe's top rights body, AFP reports.
Osman Kavala, a leading figure in Turkey's civil society who has funded projects across the country, has been in pre-trial detention since November 2017.
A respected figure in intellectual circles, Kavala is chairman of the Anatolian Culture Foundation, which promotes human rights through art, including with neighbouring Armenia, with which Turkey has no diplomatic ties.
Turkish prosecutors accuse him and 15 other leading figures in civil society of involvement in anti-Erdogan protests in 2013 and the failed coup in 2016.
Kavala, who appeared in the dock wearing a dark jacket and a white shirt, dismissed the charges as "completely groundless", according to an AFP correspondent in court.
"The 657-page indictment... proves I am innocent rather than guilty," he told the court.
"I demand this unlawful and discriminatory practice that placed me in prison for two years come to an end," he added.
The Turkish court in Silivri in the outskirts of Istanbul set the next hearing for January 28.
The crowd applauded Kavala as he was led from the courtroom, saluting his supporters.
Two weeks ago, the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) urged Turkey to "take every measure to put an end" to Kavala's detention and "to secure his immediate release".
In a damning ruling, the ECHR said Kavala was being held "not only on acts that could not be reasonably considered as behaviour criminalised under domestic law" but which were also protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.