The decision of the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court to prolong the detention of Osman Kavala perpetuates the violation of both his human rights and Turkey’s obligation to abide by a final judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the Council of Europe’s (CoE) Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic said in a statement on Thursday.
Kavala, a prominent businessman and philanthropist, has been in pre-trial detention for 46 months despite a judgment of the ECtHR in December 2019 which found that the authorities had targeted him in pursuit of the ulterior purpose of reducing him to silence and that the proceedings against him were likely to have a dissuasive effect on the work of human rights defenders.
He faces a potential sentence of life in prison for allegedly trying to overthrow the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a July 2016 coup attempt, including espionage charges.
Kavala remains behind bars despite six decisions and one interim resolution by the CoE Committee of Ministers defining his detention as arbitrary and strongly urging the authorities to ensure the applicant’s immediate release.
Instead of releasing Kavala from detention, a domestic court rendered a decision on August 2 to merge the ongoing criminal proceedings against him with another set of criminal proceedings relating to the 2013 Gezi Park protest, further undermining prospects for his release.
He was originally acquitted in the protest case, but the decision was overturned on appeal last month.
“He is a victim of a justice system that has been used to silence human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists and displayed unprecedented levels of disregard for the most basic principles of law, such as the presumption of innocence, no punishment without crime and non-retroactivity of offences, or not being judged for the same facts again,” the statement said.
“Mr Kavala should have not been in detention in the first place. His prolonged, illegal detention displays contempt for human rights and the rule of law. He must be released now.”
In a February statement the US State Department also called for Kavala’s “immediate release.”
“The specious charges against Kavala, his ongoing detention, and the continuing delays in the conclusion of his trial, including through the merger of cases against him, undermine respect for the rule of law and democracy,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
“We urge Turkey to abide by the European Court of Human Rights’ rulings and ensure a just, transparent, and speedy resolution to the case in line with its domestic laws and international obligations.”