Turkey on Monday slammed the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for awarding its top rights prize to jailed Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala, who has come under repeated attack from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish Minute reported, citing Agence France-Presse reported.
“It is unacceptable that the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Award was given to a person who has a final conviction by the judiciary in our country,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.
Kavala, 66, faced alternating charges that have ranged from espionage and financing protests in 2013 to taking part in a failed coup against Erdoğan in 2016.
He was arrested in October 2017 and sentenced to life in 2022 for allegedly trying to topple Erdoğan’s government.
“I am very sad that he is not here with us to receive this prize. This prize is so important,” his wife, Ayse Buğra Kavala, said, accepting the award from Tiny Kox, the president of PACE.
A five-member nominating committee that gathered in Prague last month shortlisted three candidates: Kavala, Polish women’s and human rights activist Justyna Wydrzynska and Ukrainian rights activist Yevgeniy Zakharov.
Turkey’s refusal to abide by European Court of Human Rights rulings to immediately release Kavala have damaged Ankara’s relations with Western allies.
The Council of Europe launched infringement proceeding against Turkey over its treatment of Kavala.
That could potentially see Ankara expelled from the continent’s leading human rights organization.
Critics say it also highlights the deterioration of Turkey’s rights record in the second decade of Erdoğan’s rule.
Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals last month upheld Kavala’s conviction and life imprisonment on the charge of attempting to overthrow Erdogan’s government during large-scale protests in 2013.
The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, created in 2013, is awarded each year by PACE, in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation, and the support of the Czech government. The prize consists of a sum of €60,000, a trophy and a diploma. The 2017 Prize went to a jailed lawyer from Turkey, Murat Arslan, president of the now dissolved Association for the Union of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV), while the 2022 winner of the award was imprisoned Russian opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza.