On 22 April, the sixth and possibility final hearing in the trial of publisher, civil society actor and human rights defender Osman Kavala and seven other defendants will take place at the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court. PEN International President Burhan Sönmez, representatives from PEN Turkey and Kurdish PEN, and a delegation from PEN Norway of five persons including former President, Vice President, board member and General Secretary as well as the Turkey Adviser will be attending the hearing to demonstrate solidarity with the defendants and monitor the ongoing crisis in media freedom and the rule of law more broadly in Turkey.
The PEN Community has repeatedly condemned the judicial harassment of all defendants in the case, calling for all charges against them to be dropped and for Osman Kavala’s immediate and unconditional release from prison. In his final opinion, the prosecutor requested that Kavala and Mücella Yapıcı —who served as the spokesperson of Taksim Solidarity at the time of the Gezi Park protests — be found guilty of ‘attempting to overthrow the government’. Both face a possible aggravated life sentence.
‘The Turkish authorities have kept Osman Kavala behind bars for four-and-a-half years with the sole intent and purpose of silencing him. As a member state of the Council of Europe, Turkey must abide by and respect its international obligations and release him at once. That he and co-defendants continue to be judicially harassed on baseless charges is yet another example of the country’s ongoing human rights crisis. Ahead of Friday’s hearing, which we shall observe, we urge the Turkish authorities to drop all charges against the defendants, and to release Kavala immediately and unconditionally’, said the PEN delegates.
First detained in October 2017, Osman Kavala was officially charged 16 months after his arrest – accused of being responsible for crimes allegedly committed by protestors across Turkey during the 2013 Gezi Park protests.
The majority of defendants in this case were acquitted in February 2020, only for Kavala to be immediately arrested for ‘attempting to overthrow the constitutional order through violence and force’ in connection with the 2016 failed coup attempt. The prosecutor’s appeal against their acquittals was upheld in November 2020 and a retrial was ordered. Kavala was further accused of ‘espionage’.
PEN Norway’s indictment reports revealed no concrete evidence in the two cases raised against Kavala and demonstrated serious flaws in the compilation of the indictments against him and his fellow defendants.
In December 2019, the European Court of Human Rights ruled for Osman Kavala’s immediate release, as it found his detention ‘pursued an ulterior purpose…namely that of reducing [him] to silence’. In February 2022, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers voted to begin infringement proceedings against Turkey over its failure to release Kavala.
The court’s decision to merge the Gezi case with that of 35 football supporters (known as the Çarşı case) – a move that would have prolonged Kavala’s time behind bars — was overturned in February 2022 following a request from the prosecutor.
To arrange media interview with the PEN delegates, please contact: