Still no justice for Kavala and the Gezi defendants
Osman Kavala not released despite looming infringement proceedings on Turkey
PEN Norway is alarmed at today’s interim decision in the Gezi Park/Çarşı hearing at Istanbul’s 13th High Criminal Court to continue the detention of entrepreneur and rights activist Osman Kavala. Such a decision comes as no surprise in this politically-motivated, absurdist case, which has lasted for 4 years and during which time Kavala has suffered serious violations of his European Convention-enshrined rights of liberty and security and the right to a fair trial.
‘This decision to keep the innocent Osman Kavala in prison, at the risk of Turkey being removed from the Council of Europe, is hard to fathom,’ said Agnete G. Haaland, Vice President of PEN Norway. ‘That is the price Turkey will pay for ignoring the rulings of the European Court and the Committee of Ministers. We continue to call for the acquittal of all Gezi Park defendants and for the immediate release of this important civil society figure in Turkey who has suffered a form of judicial torture during these long and, unfounded legal proceedings.’
The court ruled today to lift judicial measures for two of the Çarşı football supporters, with whom the Gezi Park case is merged, but denied the businessman and rights activist Osman Kavala his release, despite the threat of impending infringement proceedings against Turkey, which would force the onset of infringement proceedings leading to expulsion from the Council of Europe.
The civial society figure, businessperson and human rights campaigner Osman Kavala was first arrested in November 2017 on suspicion of having funded and organised the spontaneous Gezi Park protests that took place in the summer of 2013. He has remained in detention in Silivri prison, Istanbul, ever since. This is despite the fact that he and the majority of his fellow defendants were acquitted of all charges in February 2020. Kavala was re-arrested immediately upon his release in relation to allegations of espionage. He has now served 4 years in prison in relation to this case.
Besides Osman Kavala, there are 51 other defendants in the case, including NGO workers, lawyers, film makers and architects. Defendant and lawyer Can Atalay said as part of his defence statement today:
‘Your indictment is the historical thesis of the ruling political party, thus it is not a legal text, but a political statement.’
On 10 December 2019 the European Court of Human Rights ruled for the release of Osman Kavala, claiming that his detention was a violation of his rights to liberty and security and further was motivated by political reasons and therefore constituted a violation of Article 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Despite European Court decisions taking precedence over all domestic jurisdiction, the Ministry of Justice did not enforce the decision.
On 2 December 2021, the Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg ruled that Turkey had failed to uphold its obligations under Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights to execute the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights. The Committee allowed until the 19 January, 2022 for Turkey to respond, with formal notice of the beginning of infringement proceedings due to be served on 2 February 2022.
‘It is terrible to say that we are not surprised by the court’s decision in Istanbul today,’ said PEN Norway Turkey Adviser Caroline Stockford. ‘Our reports into the indictments in the Gezi trial and the ensuing espionage case against Kavala prove that there in no crime, evidence or even reasonable suspicion of guilt. This is not a legal case, this is a hostage situation. PEN Norway have observed the vast majority of the hearings in this trial and we have witnessed first-hand the absolute disregard for the rule of law, for Turkey’s own Constitution, for the European Convention and for the decisions of the Committee of Ministers. This is wilful dissent by a country that signed the Convention in 1953 has resulted in the judicial harassment of all defendants and has cost an innocent man 4 years of his life and freedom. Kavala must be freed immediately.’
The next hearing in the case is due to take place on 21 February 2022.