Kavala remains in custody despite ECtHR ruling

Turkish businessman, human-rights defender and activist Osman Kavala has been behind bars since November 1, 2017, standing trial on charges of attempting to overthrow the government, based on accusations that he organized and funded nationwide protests in 2013’s Gezi protests against then-Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

Two weeks ago, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) called for the immediate release of Kavala, saying there was a lack of reasonable suspicion that he had committed an offense. The Court concluded that the Articles 5/1 and 5/4 and Article 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights have been violated and ruled that Kavala shall be released from prison immediately. The verdict has emphasized that the arrest of Kavala is a right violation.

The fourth hearing in the case opened into the Gezi Park protests continued at the Istanbul 30th Heavy Penal Court on Tuesday. The case involves 16 defendants, of whom only Kavala is jailed pending trial. The 16 defendants in the so-called Gezi trial are accused, among other things, of “an attempt to overthrow the government” in connection with the Gezi protests of 2013. Kavala is also accused of having financed the protests with foreign aid. All defendants are threatened with a life sentence.

While Kavala demanded an end to his “illegal” detention, saying that the accusations against him are “completely unfounded”, the court ruled continuation of detention for Kavala.

The next hearing was scheduled for January 28, 2020.

As a member of the Council of Europe, judgments of the ECtHR are binding on Turkey. A lawyer for Kavala said Turkey was challenging the decision of the ECtHR.

Osman Kavala is the founder of the cultural foundation Anadolu Kültür, which particularly supports projects of ethnic and religious minorities, often with an international orientation. His concerns include reconciliation between the Turkish and Armenian populations and a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question. The foundation also works together with several German institutions such as the Goethe-Institut in Istanbul. Kavala is also known as a sponsor of Amnesty International.