European human rights ambassadors call for Osman Kavala’s immediate release

Human rights ambassadors from eight European countries issued a joint statement on Thursday, calling on Turkey to release Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala from pre-trial detention immediately and implement binding judgements by Europe’s top court.

Commissioner for Human Rights of the Federal Government of Germany Bärbel Kofler posted the statement on her twitter account, saying Kavala’s continued arrest “is politically motivated and goes against judgements of the European Court of Human Rights.”

The ECHR ruled for Kavala’s release in December 2019, but Turkish courts have refused to comply, despite Turkey’s constitution requiring them to. The philanthropist remaining behind bars was “utterly wrong,” and compliance with ECHR rulings was a “binding requirement” and “not a kind request,” Council of Europe Secretary-General Marija Pejčinović Burić said in a Parliamentary Assembly session in January.

Kavala was originally arrested in 2017 over charges of attempting to overthrow the government by funding and organising the massive anti-government protests of 2013, dubbed the Gezi Park protests over the small urban park whose destruction lighted the original spark.

The lower court acquitted Kavala in February 2020, but he was arrested on renewed charges of espionage before he could be released. In January 2021, the Court of Appeals overturned the acquittal ruling.

“Osman Kavala’s ongoing detention raises serious questions about the rule of law in Turkey,” the human rights ambassadors of Germany, Britain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Estonia, Finland, Luxembourg and Lithuania said in their joint statement, and “a clear violation of his human rights.”

Nine European countries have Human Rights Ambassadors, and the ambassador of the ninth country, France, didn’t sign the joint statement.

The ambassadors expressed “great concern” over negative developments on “the rule of law, human rights and the judiciary” in Turkey, and said Turkish civil society was becoming “increasingly constrained.”

Before Kavala’s next hearing, scheduled for Friday, Feb. 5, the ambassadors said, they were calling on Turkey “to ensure the immediate release of Osman Kaval, and the fair and transparent conduct of his trial in line with international obligations. We also call on Turkey to implement binding ECHR judgments.”

The ECHR has also ruled for the immediate release of Kurdish politician and former leader of Turkey’s second-largest opposition party, Selahattin Demirtaş, similarly citing political motivations for his ongoing detention since 2016 and a lack of evidence of criminal activity against him.

In a November 2018 ruling, the ECHR said Demirtaş’s continued arrest had “the predominant ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate: the very core of the concept of a democratic society.”