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06/27/2019 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – Osman Kavala appeared in court on Monday after spending 600 days in pre-trial detention. He stands accused of masterminding Turkey’s Gezi Park protests in 2013, and was sent back to prison following his Monday hearing. The case of Osman Kavala is an example of Turkey using the judicial system to censor critics and has serious implications for religious minorities.

Kavala is a Turkish philanthropist who has published numerous books on the Armenian Genocide, a massacre which the government actively denies and even bans people from discussing. This genocide resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million Armenian Christians and today, the government severely restricts public speech referencing this incident. Armenians in Turkey continue to face religious persecution. Kavala also worked as part of a cultural NGO which sought to repair the damage of Turkey’s genocidal history.

Kavala’s trial is widely regarded as a sham trial by international human rights organizations. His philanthropic work is regarded as the cause of Turkey’s judicial persecution of him. Turkey is indeed constricting philanthropic work more broadly, but it is also important to remember the purpose of Kavala’s work. Turkey has a long history of persecuting Armenian Christians, a persecution which continues today. Kavala’s case shows how anyone from within Turkey who stands up on their behalf is also at risk.

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