Mar 12 2019

Amnesty International launches campaign for release of 16 activists facing life in prison

Human rights NGO Amnesty International has launched a campaign calling for the release of 16 civil society figures, including businessman and rights activist Osman Kavala, facing life in prison for allegedly attempting to overthrow the Turkish government.

A Turkish court on March 4 accepted an indictment seeking life sentences against 16 people, including Kavala and renowned activist Yiğit Aksakoğlu, over their alleged roles in the 2013 Gezi protests, the biggest anti-government demonstrations since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002. 

The indictment which contains 746 plaintiffs, including Turkish President Erdoğan, accuses the activists of attempting to overthrow the government or prevent it from performing its duties by organising the protests in an attempt to “force the government to resign or call early elections” and, failing that, “to prepare the grounds for a civil war or coup.”

Kavala, who has been in jail on pre-trial detention for almost 17 months, and Aksakoğlu, who has been in prison for five months, are the only two of the 16 facing life sentences that are in pre-trial detention.

"The Turkish authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Osman Kavala and Yiğit Aksakoğlu and drop the trumped-up charges against all 16,’’ Amnesty said.

International rights groups such as Freedom House and Human Rights Watch have condemned the indictment demanding a life sentence for the civil society leaders.