EU parliamentarians slam Turkey over Kavala re-arrest, seizures of municipalities

A delegation from the European Parliament criticised Turkey for the re-arrest of philanthropist Osman Kavala and seizing control of municipalities won by a pro-Kurdish party in elections last year, Voice of America (VoA) said.

The European delegation met several Turkish officials, including Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül and main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, VoA said.

Philanthropist and human rights activist Kavala was re-arrested on Feb. 19 in connection with an investigation into a 2016 failed coup, the day after his acquittal on charges of trying to overthrow the government through the 2013 Gezi Park demonstrations.

"It is unacceptable for Osman Kavala to be arrested again five hours after his acquittal. The re-trial conditions were clearly violated. Turkey's disobedience to the European Court of Human Rights' decision for the immediate release is concerning," said David McAllister, the chair of the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament.

He said Turkey should also release Selahattin Demirtaş, the former leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), who has been in prison since 2016 on terrorism charges.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in July that Turkey had violated Demirtaş’s freedom of expression and demanded his immediate release. Police also arrested 24 HDP mayors on terrorism charges and seized control of 32 municipalities from the party last year.

"In our view, all elected mayors should be on duty. There can be no appointed administrators in democracy or democratic elections," said Sergey Lagodinsky, the chair of the European Parliament delegation.