The Istanbul court ruled philanthropist Osman Kavala’s four-year-long pre-trial detention to continue, despite Eruopean Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) previous rulings for his release and Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe’s decision to initiate infringement process if Turkey would not comply with the court’s decision.
Istanbul 13th Criminal Court ruled for the extension of the imprisonment of the philanthropist Osman Kavala on January 17, in a case that has been criticized as being politically motivated and under the influence of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The hearing adjourned to February 12.
Osman Kavala, who has been in pre-trial detention for more than four years, is the sole imprisoned suspect in the case, where he and 52 other suspects are accused of “attempting to overthrow the government.” He faces two aggravated life sentences on charges of espionage and financing of Gezi Park Protests of 2013 and July 15 2016 Coup Attempt.
It is a merger of two separate cases in which Kavala has previously released. The Court of Appeal overturned the verdicts of the local courts for these cases which were resulted with acquital. They were re-opened and then merged with new accusations targeting Kavala.
Istanbul-based philanthropist refuses every accusation made against him, stating that the case is political in nature and aims to silence him and the opposition. Protesting the court process, he refused to attend all of the hearings.
Infringement proceedings against Turkey
The ECtHR ruled twice that Kavala’s “detention took place in the absence of sufficient evidence that he had committed an offence, in violation of his right to liberty and security.”
As the local courts resisted the ECtHR decision and ruled for the extension of imprisonment in previous hearings, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which is responsible for supervising the implementation of the ECtHR decisions, ruled to initiate an infringement process on December 3 2021. The Committee gave Turkey a “formal notice” to respond until January 19, two days after the third hearing.
With the prolonged detention, the Istanbul Court’s interim ruling would lead the Committee to proceed with the infringement procedure by reverting to the ECHR to ask the court to decide whether Turkey has failed to implement the judgement. If the court agrees that it has, the Committee may order further measures against Turkey.
The infringement process could lead to Turkey’s membership or voting rights being suspended.
His prolonged imprisonment without verdict has already become a subject of diplomatic crisis as Erdoğan accused ambassadors of 10 countries stirring a diplomatic debate in October.
Kavala: I would be ashamed if Turkey were punished
According to the report of Serkan Alan from Gazete Duvar, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Parliamentary Chair Özgür Özel visited Kavala in prison before the hearing on January 15. Özel stated that Kavala underlined the gravity of the situation of any sanctions.
“I am ashamed if Turkey would be punished by a council that Turkey is a founding member. Infringement proceedings would make me feel unhappy. Turkey shouldn’t be in this situation. There is a difference between the approaches of Erdoğan and (Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt) Çavuşoğlu, which are reflected in the press, on this issue. The sanctions of the Council of Europe cannot be interpreted as foreign intervention. It should be viewed as the intervention of a council founded by Turkey,” Kavala stated.
Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) officials have been criticizing the Committee for intervening in Turkey’s judicial process and domestic affairs.
Arrested in 2017, released, re-arrested
Osman Kavala was first arrested in Istanbul on October 18 2017, on suspicion of “attempting to overthrow the government or prevent it from doing its duty” and “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order by using force and violence,” with alleged responsibility for the 2013 Gezi Park Protests and the July 15 coup attempt.
Throughout the four years, the two cases, Gezi Park Protests and July 15, were resulted in an acquittal. He was released twice from these cases but then arrested again on different indictments with minor changes from the previous ones and similar accusations and new charges, like espionage.
In 2021, the Court of Appeal overturned the two cases mentioned above. Following the re-opening of the cases, Gezi, coup attempt, espionage cases were combined.
Kavala appeared at the court on October 8 2021, for the first hearing of the merged case and November 21 on the second and his detention was prolonged twice in these hearings.