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Turkey: Rights organisations join Council of Europe in calling for the release of Osman Kavala

On 4 September, the Council of Europe issued a statement urging the Turkish government to immediately release imprisoned human rights activist and businessman Osman Kavala. 

The statement followed a Committee of Ministers hearing on 3 September to assess the execution of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Osman Kavala. The Committee, acting in its supervisory capacity for Court judgments, ordered the Turkish authorities: 

“to ensure the applicant’s immediate release,” pointing to “a strong presumption that his current detention is a continuation of the violations found by the Court.”

Yesterday, 7 September, there was a joint call by human rights organisations to release Kavala and for Turkey to comply with the decision.

“Turkish authorities should immediately release human rights defender Osman Kavala, in compliance with the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers’ decision of September 3, 2020,” 

the International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Watch and the Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project said in a statement.

“After the finding by the European Court of Human Rights that Kavala’s detention is unlawful, the Committee of Ministers has affirmed that Turkey is continuing to violate his rights by keeping him in detention,” 

said Roisin Pillay, director of the Europe and Central Asia Programme at the International Commission of Jurists. 

“European Court rulings are binding, and Osman Kavala should be released immediately.”

Osman Kavala is a Turkish businessperson, rights defender, philanthropist and political prisoner. Kavala has supported numerous civil society organizations since the early 1990s. He is the founder and chair of the board of directors of Anadolu Kültür, a nonprofit arts and culture organisation based in Istanbul.

He was arrested at Istanbul Airport on 18 October 2017 after a visit to Gaziantep for a joint project with Goethe Institute. He was initially held on bogus allegations that he had used the 2013 Istanbul Gezi Park protests as a pretext for an attempt to overthrow the government, and that he was involved in the July 2016 military coup. On 18 February 2020, Kavala and his eight co-defendants were acquitted on charges of “attempting to overthrow the government by force and violence” in the Gezi Park trial but he was not released, and a court immediately ordered his detention again after President Erdoğan publicly criticised his acquittal.

The European Court of Human Rights found on 10 December 2019 a violation upon reviewing Kavala’s application and called for his immediate release. On 12 May, the Strasbourg court rejected an appeal from the Turkish government with which the court’s ruling became final. Turkey, however, refused to abide by the ruling.

Amnesty International’s Turkey Campaigner, Milena Buyum said:

“Almost three years after Osman Kavala was locked behind bars on absurd charges, the demand for his release has grown louder both in Turkey and around the world.”

“It is hard to understate the seriousness of Kavala’s continued unlawful imprisonment – almost a year since the European Court of Human Rights ruled for his release. Turkey has just one simple decision to make to comply with the Court’s binding judgment – release Osman Kavala immediately and discontinue the criminal proceedings against him,” she said.


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