Turkey can no longer ignore calls for Osman Kavala’s release, Amnesty says

Turkey’s detention of Osman Kavala must end immediately following a resolution by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers calling for his release, Amnesty International said on Thursday.

Kavala, a philanthropist and prominent civil society figure, has been held in pre-trial custody since November 2017. In February, he was acquitted of terrorism charges relating to the 2013 Gezi protest movement, which saw hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets to express their growing frustration with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

Immediately after his acquittal, a new warrant was issued against Kavala on accusations of involvement in the 2016 coup attempt.

Last year, the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) found that Kavala’s extended detention “intended to punish him as a critic of the government, to reduce him to silence as an NGO activist and human rights defender, to dissuade others from engaging in such activities and to paralyse civil society in the country”.

On Thursday, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers again called for the Strasbourg court’s decision to be implemented, passing an interim motion that “strongly urged” authorities to ensure Kavala was released.

“Today’s resolution and last year’s Court judgment cannot be brushed aside by the Turkish authorities,” Amnesty International’s Europe Director Nils Muižnieks said.

“Their continuing refusal to comply with the ruling and Osman Kavala’s continued imprisonment - which is now in its fourth year - are unlawful. Each day Osman Kavala spends behind bars is yet another confirmation of the ulterior motive behind his imprisonment.”

Last month, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced judicial reforms following domestic and international pressure, raising speculation that Kavala would be released alongside Kurdish opposition leader Selahattin Demirtaş.

However, Erdoğan later slammed former Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç for criticising the indictments against Kavala and Demirtaş, dashing hopes the charges would be dropped.  

Arınç, a founding member of the AKP, resigned from the Presidential Advisory Board last week, the latest in a number of senior figures to leave the government.