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Turkey’s appeals court upholds life sentence for Osman Kavala, four others

The trial and ensuing sentences have turned into a symbol of Turkey’s democratic backsliding and erosion of judiciary independence.
Poster featuring jailed businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala.

ANKARA — Turkey's top appeals court on Thursday upheld a sentence of life without parole for prominent civil rights activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala and 18-year jail terms for four other activists over their involvement in the 2013 mass anti-government protests. 

The sentences of three other activists — Hakan Altinay, Yigit Ekmekci and Mucella Yapici — meanwhile, were overturned in what is dubbed the “Gezi trial,” named after a central Istanbul park where the mass protests broke out in 2013 and morphed into the sole popular uprising against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule of more than two decades.

In 2022, Kavala, 65, and seven other activists — Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman, Cigdem Mater, Mine Ozerden, Altinay, Ekmekci and Yapici — were found guilty of attempting to overthrow the government through their involvement in the 2013 nationwide anti-government protests.

Speaking after her release from an Istanbul prison, Yapici lashed out at the ruling. “We left our loved ones behind. We need to get them out of there immediately,” she told journalists.

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