'There's no crime'

"There's no crime, nor evidence. They were acquitted in two previous trials. As for Osman Kavala, I saw him for the first time in court in 2018," Atlar said.

The 64-year-old businessman and philanthropist was found guilty of "attempting to topple the government" of Erdogan, who was prime minister in 2013.

Already jailed for more than four years, the Paris-born Kavala denounced the "judicial assassination" minutes ahead of the verdict.

"These are conspiracy theories drafted on political and ideological grounds," Kavala told the court.

"Had they had a rope, they'd have hanged me", he reportedly told an opposition lawmaker who visited him in jail.

Some of the other seven defendants were "people concerned about preserving their city and nature", Atlar said.

'People are scared!'

In a country where protests are quashed, several hundreds gathered on Tuesday evening in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir despite the danger of repercussions.

"People are afraid. No one will take the risk of calling demonstrations at the risk of giving a pretext to declare a state of emergency. Erdogan would be only too happy about it," political scientist Ahmet Insel said.

"This verdict is a threat addressed to all journalists, lawyers, rights defenders, NGOs and professionals like us," Atlar added.

On Friday, Germany summoned Turkey's ambassador to Berlin over Kavala's sentencing.

The Kavala affair had sparked a diplomatic crisis last fall: 10 Western ambassadors had been threatened with expulsion for having demanded "a fair and equitable trial".

Turkey's mediating role between Russia and Ukraine to try and end the conflict saw Erdogan return to favour on the global stage and friends and lawyers of the accused in the Kavala case had hoped for clemency. But that was not to be.

Kavala was only one of tens of thousands of Turks who were either jailed or fired from their jobs in purges that followed a bloody coup attempt against Erdogan when he was already president in 2016.

The seemingly arbitrary nature of the alternating charges filed against Kavala made him a symbol for rights groups -- as well as Western governments -- of Erdogan's increasing authoritarian streak in the second decade of his rule.

Kavala was charged with plotting a failed coup in 2016 -- seen by some analysts as the genesis of Erdogan's more authoritarian posture in the latter half of his 20-year rule as well as the 2013 unrest.