The decision last Friday of an İstanbul court to continue the imprisonment of philanthropist and human rights activist Osman Kavala on charges related to a failed 2016 coup attempt runs against Turkey’s stated commitment to the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights, including the presumption of innocence, said Nabila Massrali, the spokesperson of the European Union External Actions Service (EEAS), in a statement today.
The EEAS spokesperson’s statement recalled a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on December 10, 2019 that said Osman Kavala’s arrest and pre-trial detention took place in the absence of evidence to support a reasonable suspicion he had committed an offense and that it pursued an ulterior purpose, namely to silence him and dissuade other human rights defenders.
Kavala, who had been behind bars since October 18, 2017, was acquitted of charges of attempting to overthrow the state through involvement in the 2013 nationwide Gezi Park protests in mid-February.
He was rearrested the same day on charges related to a 2016 abortive putsch in Turkey in a move described by his lawyers as a tactic to circumvent the ECtHR ruling.
The 64-page indictment accuses Kavala of espionage and attempting through force and violence to overthrow the constitutional order of the Republic of Turkey. According to Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists, the indictment provides no credible evidence linking him to any criminal activities. Instead, it “recycles unsubstantiated accusations, which previously circulated in the pro-government Turkish media, that Kavala … [was] involved in espionage and in the 2016 attempted military coup.”
Massrali said the Turkish authorities have not been able to dispel the strong suspicion that Kavala’s ongoing detention and the initiation of a new investigation represent a continued violation of the ECtHR’s legally binding judgement.
The spokesperson called on the Turkish judiciary to follow up on the Council of Europe’s recommendations and implement the ECtHR judgement and immediately release Kavala. Massrali also said “as a candidate country and long-standing member of the Council of Europe, Turkey urgently needs to make concrete and sustained progress in the respect of fundamental rights, which are a cornerstone of EU-Turkey relations.”