Turkish activist appeals to European rights court over prolonged detention

Turkish civil society activist Osman Kavala has applied to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over his prolonged pre-trial detention on charges of trying to overthrow the government, independent news site Diken reported.

Kavala was arrested last October on charges of trying to overthrow the government and the constitutional order. The charges are largely based on what prosecutors say was Kavala’s contact with members of the Middle East studies wing of the U.S.-based Smithsonian Institution. The group organised a workshop on the island of Büyükada, off Istanbul, between July 15 and July 17, 2016, the same dates as a Turkey’s failed coup attempt. Several others linked to the meeting also face charges.

Kavala, who has yet to be served an indictment, said in a letter he wrote seven months into his detention that his previous requests for release were denied and the information presented to him during his interrogation did not constitute evidence, Diken said.

“I asked to see the evidence against me, if there are any. I could not receive an answer to this request, either,” Diken quoted him as saying, adding that after taking his case to Turkey’s Constitutional Court, he was now applying to the ECHR.

“Even though applying to the ECHR is a right which provides a sense of safety, declaring that the country which you are a citizen of does not value your freedom is difficult to bear,” Kavala said.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that Kavala was trying to undermine the country, labelling him the George Soros of Turkey in an apparent reference to Kavala being backed by outside forces.