"An attempt to acquit Kavala is nothing but a tactical move by foreign conspirators like [US billionaire George] Soros, who are engaged in provoking protests against the legitimate governments of countries", Erdogan said during a speech to parliament, which was broadcast live by the Turkish NTV channel.
Erdogan compared the protests in Gezi Park with the attempted coup in July 2016 and said the riots caused serious damage to the national economy.
On Tuesday, Kavala was acquitted together with eight other suspects who were facing felony charges over 2013 protests in Istanbul's Gezi Park that later triggered nationwide anti-government rallies. Later that same day, the businessman was re-arrested by order of Istanbul’s prosecutor’s office over his alleged involvement in the failed coup of 2016.
The president regularly accuses Soros of sponsoring the 2013 protests, which began after the authorities announced plans to tear down Gezi Park, located next to Istanbul’s central Taksim Square, and build a shopping and entertainment center in its place. The rallies escalated into a wave of opposition protests organized in many other provinces and among diasporas abroad.
Charges were brought against public figures, journalists and entrepreneurs, including Kavala, for either attempting to overthrow the government by organizing the protests or for helping the organizers. The businessman was facing a life sentence without parole and spent more than two years in prison before his brief release on Tuesday.
In July 2016, a group within the Turkish armed forces launched a failed attempt to oust Erdogan, leading to mass arrests among the country's military, intelligence services and law enforcement.