Turkey's civil society leader completes one full year in jail without an indictment

A shameful legal practice; the Turkish philanthropist and businessman Osman Kavala detained without an indictment for 365 days.

One of the most significant risks of one-person regimes is its arbitrariness; one could find oneself in a Siberian prison with their family following a dinner party with Stalin, for example.

Turkish politics, since 1923, has been exhibiting somewhat a similar sort of arbitrariness in its strategies and choices that escalates and de-escalates throughout.  The strong influence of the army on Turkish politics and the nature of that military guardianship allowed the Turkish Military Forces to closely supervise the judiciary and use it to punish all the opposition they considered objectionable in the past, starting with Kurds of course...

The struggle to achieve a representative democracy in Turkey has always been an uphill battle. This concept, borrowed from the Western democracies by Mustafa Kemal, never meant an independent judiciary, freedom of belief, freedom of expression or genuinely free elections. The state always supervised the judiciary and used it to limit the sphere of personalliberties. Those who dared to challenge the limits of this sphere either lost their lives or their freedom.

Now with the new presidential system set forth by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan doubled up on the tutelage of the institutions. This new regime of arbitrariness, crowned by the failed coup attempt on July 15th 2016, put the "winner takes all, losers deserve what they get" understanding of governance into full practice in Turkey.

In between the horror and government terror both in prisons and on the streets following the coup attempt and the government propaganda spread by the pro-government media, Turkish system right now is beyond illiberal. All the Turks saw the photos of beheaded people and read stories of torture in prisons; we're still reading them...

July 15th was an anti-democratic revolution in this sense. This revolution not only aimed to change the old management style but also overthrew the social, economic and cultural norms that the old system was based on. It liquidated the secular, West-friendly, somewhat feminist segment of the Turkish society.

Erdoğan did not achieve this transformation single-handedly. He had allies. Call them Ergenekon, the alleged clandestine, secularist ultra-nationalist organisation with possible ties military and security forces, or the Deep-State; these allies, just like Erdoğan, had no desire to grant Kurds any rights, they were hostile to Western democratic values and were filled with hatred and vengeance.

Osman Kavala, the jailed human rights activist and civil society leader, has always supported the oppressed, especially the Kurds. He has been a target for the government elite for his positions on the Armenians, Kurds, Yazidis and even his stance on Turkey's membership to the European Union.

Those who speak for human rights, justice, and acknowledging historical mistakes have always been punished in Turkey. The case against Osman Kavala aims to set a precedent. The brutality of his punishment is beyond any understanding of the rule-of-law of any nation.

The accusations against Kavala are all based on articles published in the pro-government news media.  It has been a full year today since he has been detained, and there is still no indictment. There isn't an indictment, because there is no concrete evidence against him.

The main opposition, Republican Peoples' Party (CHP), is not standing by Osman Kavala or the thousands of other people in a similar situation. They are satisfied with playing a theatre of democracy at the Assembly that has virtually no power over the government.

What is more surprising is the inaction of the European Union. Germany and France that proved in the recent past that they can get whatever they want from this government are carefully refraining from taking the necessary steps to free Kavala.

Osman Kavala is paying a heavy price for challenging the red lines drawn by the Turkish state. Maybe he is deprived of his freedom in prison, but he is freer than the millions on the outside as he refuses to sacrifice his beliefs and his dignity. That's what makes us all human...

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.