Turkish Courts Rule To Keep Osman Kavala Detained

On Monday, February 21st, the Turkish court stated that Osman Kavala must remain in prison. The philanthropist has been detained for over four years without receiving a conviction. The court ruled to keep him in custody and set his next hearing for March 21st.

Two years ago, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Kavala should be released immediately. Turkey has neglected to carry out this ruling. As such, Kavala’s case has been referred to the European Court of Human Rights by the Council of Europe to “determine whether Turkey has failed to meet its obligation to implement a previous ECHR judgment,” according to Reuters. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, however, stated that he expects the Court of Europe and the ECHR to respect the decision of Turkish courts.

Kavala was originally detained on October 18th, 2017, and has been on trial with 51 others in cases relating to the 2013 protests and the 2016 coup attempt, according to Al Jazeera. In 2020 he was acquitted of the charges relating to the nationwide protest in 2013. Subsequently, another court ordered his arrest hours later, on the grounds of his involvement in the attempt to overthrow the constitutional order in 2016. The court ruled to release him on this charge and promptly ordered his arrest for espionage.

Currently, the ECHR is reviewing the case to determine if Turkey has failed to meet its obligation. According to Reuters, this referral to the ECHR is a step in “infringement proceedings that could result in Turkey’s suspension from the Council of Europe.” A rapporteur of the European Parliament, Nacho Sánchez Amor stated via Twitter that after attending Osman Kavala’s trial, he “witnessed the umpteenth legal trick in this mockery of due process.”

Human rights activists have said that the case has political motivations and could be a method to crack down on dissent by President Erdoğan. This suspicion is backed by the actions of President Erdoğan in October 2021, when he threatened to expel the ambassadors of ten countries after they demonstrated support for the ECHR’s ruling to release Kavala.

Both foreign governments and international agencies need to continue to put pressure on the Turkish government to follow the ECHR’s ruling. It is clear that proper due process is not being followed by Turkish courts and therefore, it is up to a third party to intervene. As a member of the Council of Europe, Turkey is expected to adhere to the highest democratic standards and practices. As such, Osman Kavala must be released immediately because there is a lack of reasonable suspicion that an offense has been committed.