Jailed HR activist Kavala: Thousands await indictments under detention in Turkey

Osman Kavala

Osman Kavala, a Turkish businessman and activist who has been held in pretrial detention since November 2017, has written an open letter from İstanbul’s Silivri Prison in which he said thousands of people in detention have been waiting for months in uncertainty for the preparation of their indictments.

Kavala also wrote, “Unless the presumption of innocence is embraced as the key element of the judicial process from the beginning, this imbalance will persist.”

Detained upon his arrival at İstanbul Atatürk Airport late on Oct 18, Kavala is accused of “attempting to abolish the constitutional order” and “attempting to remove the government of the Turkish Republic,” according to reports in the Turkish media.

The media also said Kavala is under investigation in the same probe that led to the jailing of US Consulate General employee Metin Topuz over alleged ties to the Gülen movement on Oct 4, 2017.

Kavala was born in 1957 in Paris and studied economics at the University of Manchester. Upon his father’s passing in 1982, he took over management of the Kavala Companies. He was active in the establishment of a number of business organizations in Turkey, including Turkish-Polish and Turkish-Greek business councils and the Association of Tourism Investors.

The full text of Kavala’s letter is as follows:

The sixth month of my pre-trial detention in Silivri was completed on May 1. We are waiting for the indictment.

As the presumption of innocence constitutes one of the fundamental elements of the right to a fair trial, the norms of the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights rulings do not consider “strong suspicion” sufficient for pre-trial detention, which is an extraordinary measure; they require the presence of clear and convincing evidence.

Yet, the situation is different in our country. Once the prosecutor presents a crime that requires a heavy sentence, the judge feels obligated to rule for pre-trial detention. The decisions that are given in the absence of sufficient evidence also affect the process of the preparation of an indictment.

The effort to justify the decision of detention through collection of evidence after the detention takes place renders the entire process long and troublesome. As the time for preparation of the indictment grows longer, the pre-trial detention period is also extended. And the cost of the suspect’s deprivation of their liberty with respect to the sentence they will receive passes beyond the remediable level.

The number of those waiting for months in uncertainty for the preparation of their indictments while under detention, just like me, is not few. This situation indicates an imbalance in the fair trial mechanism. Unless the presumption of innocence is considered the fundamental component of the judicial process, this imbalance will persist.

Osman Kavala, 14 May 2018

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement. (SCF with turkeypurge.com)

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