EU calls on Turkey to immediately release Kavala

The European Union on Monday called on the Turkish judiciary to implement a judgement of the European Court of Human Rights and release Osman Kavala immediately.

Istanbul’s 36th High Criminal Court rejected an appeal by philanthropist Osman Kavala on Friday and extended his pre-trial detention period. His next hearing will be held on Feb. 5, 2021.

The court’s decision is against Turkey’s “stated commitment to the rule of law and the respect of fundamental rights, including the presumption of innocence”, EU spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy Nabila Massrali said.

Last December, the ECHR ruled for Kavala’s immediate release, saying his right to liberty and security and his right to a speedy decision on the lawfulness of his detention had both been violated.

Massrali accused Turkish authorities for continuing to violate the legally binding ruling and urged them to make “concrete and sustained progress in the respect of fundamental rights, which are a cornerstone of EU-Turkey relations”.

The 63-year-old businessman faces life in prison for seeking to overthrow the constitutional order and a further 20 years if convicted on additional espionage charges.

Kavala was acquitted of similar allegations in February, having been accused of financing and organising the 2013 Gezi protests. However, he was immediately issued with a new indictment alleging his of involvement in the 2016 failed coup attempt.

A leading figure in Turkish civil society, Kavala has been held on pre-trial detention since being detained at an Istanbul airport in October 2017.

The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers on Dec. 3 put out a resolution calling for Kavala’s release, stating that his imprisonment took place in the absence of evidence to support a “reasonable suspicion he had committed an offence,” as required by Article 5 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.