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Turkey academic jailed after raids on professors and activists

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A court in Turkey has jailed pending trial an Istanbul academic following raids on professors and activists deemed to have links to a jailed prominent financier of civil society activities.

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The United States and European Union had expressed concern over Friday’s detentions, which targeted academics and activists said to have ties to the philanthropist and businessman Osman Kavala.

Turkish prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 20 people, with 14 suspects rounded up in the raids. Twelve of the suspects were released after giving testimony to police while one other is still being questioned, according to state media.

However, Yigit Aksakoglu, a staff member of Istanbul’s private Bilgi University who specialises in education research, was remanded in custody ahead of trial, Turkish media reported.

Those released included prominent mathematician Betul Tanbay of Bogazici University and Turgut Tarhanli, professor of law and human rights at Bilgi University.

Kavala is the chairman of the Anadolu Kultur (Anatolian Culture) foundation, which aims to overcome differences within Turkish society through culture and the arts and has sought to reach out to neighbouring Armenia.

All suspects, including those released, remain accused of “creating chaos and mayhem” and “seeking to overthrow the government” in 2013 anti-government protests triggered by the planned development of Istanbul’s central Gezi Park.

Kavala worked closely with foreign missions on civil society projects and his jailing has alarmed Turkey’s Western allies.

US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Washington was “very concerned” by the detentions and urged Turkey to release all those held “arbitrarily”.

EU foreign affairs spokesperson Maja Kocijancic described the detentions as “alarming”, adding that the “widespread pressure on civil society representatives” exists in the country.

Kavala, who is regularly likened by pro-government Turkish media to liberal US billionaire George Soros, was arrested on October 18, 2017.

He was remanded in custody on accusations of seeking to overthrow the constitutional order.


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