Ankara: A Turkish court on Wednesday placed prominent businessman and civil society activist Osman Kavala under arrest on suspicion of links to last year’s failed coup, state media reported.
Kavala was charged with “attempting to overthrow the government” in connection with the July 2016 attempted putsch as well as a 2013 corruption probe that targeted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to state-run news agency Anadolu.
The Istanbul court also charged Kavala with “attempting to remove the constitutional order”, Anadolu said.
Kavala, chairman of the Anadolu Kultur (Anatolian Culture) NGO which focuses on cultural collaboration with Europe, has been in custody since October 18.
He is also the co-founder of the Iletisim publishing house.
Anadolu Kultur has sought to reach out to Armenia. Turkey has no relations with the country partly due to the dispute over the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, which Yerevan considers a genocide.
Kavala’s detention raised fresh concerns over freedom of expression under Erdogan and the crackdown which followed the coup attempt.
The probe into the 2013 corruption allegations refers to the scandal which broke in December of that year while Erdogan was prime minister.
The allegations against Erdogan’s inner circle — which centred on the illicit trading of gold with Iran — posed one of the biggest threats to his rule.
Erdogan denounced the scandal at the time as a “dirty” plot by his arch-foe, the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, to bring down his government.
Turkish authorities are now looking into the initial probe, which sparked the resignation of three ministers.
Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, is accused of ordering the coup bid against Erdogan but he strongly denies the charges.
Metin Topuz, a US consulate employee in Istanbul who has been held since September 25, was also detained as part of the same probe.
After Topuz’s formal arrest, ties between Ankara and Washington plunged as their embassies suspended mutual visa services last month.
Over 50,000 people have been arrested since last July while more than 140,000 people including public sector employees have been sacked or suspended over alleged links to Gulen and his movement.