Turkish court keeps Kavala in jail despite European watchdog's move

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ISTANBUL, Jan 17 (Reuters) - A Turkish court on Monday rejected a request to release philanthropist Osman Kavala who has spent more than four years in jail without conviction, despite a European human rights watchdog moving against Ankara over his detention.

Kavala has remained in detention despite initially being acquitted of charges over nationwide protests in 2013 focused on Istanbul's Gezi Park. The ruling was overturned last year and combined with charges in another case related to a coup attempt in 2016. He denies any wrongdoing. read more

Kavala, 64, is now on trial with 51 others in a combination of three separate cases. read more

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has called for Kavala's release over a lack of reasonable suspicion that he committed an offence, ruling that his detention served to silence him.

The Council of Europe (CoE) told Turkey in December it was preparing "infringement proceedings" over its failure to release Kavala, a move that could lead to Ankara's suspension from the body. read more

A panel of three judges rejected releasing Kavala by a majority vote and set the next hearing on his detention for Feb. 21. Kavala was detained on Oct. 18, 2017.

Human rights groups have said the case has political motivations and is part of a crackdown on dissent under President Tayyip Erdogan. The government rejects this and says Turkey's courts are independent.

Kavala has not attended the last two hearings. He said in October that there was no possibility of a fair trial after Erdogan said Turkey would not release "bandits, murderers and terrorist" in relation to the case. read more

Ilkan Koyuncu, Kavala's lawyer, said his client had lost faith in the judiciary. read more

'STAGED PLAY'

Milena Buyum, Turkey campaigner for Amnesty International, called on the Council of Europe to act.

"Refer this stubborn refusal to implement the binding (ECHR) judgment back to the court under infringement proceedings," she said on Twitter, referring to the first step in the process.

Erdogan threatened in October to expel the ambassadors of 10 countries, including the United States, Germany and France, after they reiterated the ECHR ruling seeking Kavala's release.

Mucella Yapici, a co-defendant who has twice been acquitted of charges related to the 2013 protests, rejects the current indictment.

"We have been tried since 2015 with some nonsensical indictments. It is as if we are extras here in a staged played the end of which is already determined," the 70-year-old Yapici said.

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Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Tuvan Gumrukcu, Jonathan Spicer and Toby Chopra

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