Skip to main content

Osman Kavala: Council of Europe launches infringement proceedings against Turkey

European body begins process against Turkey that could see founding member's voting rights suspended over campaigner's 'political' imprisonment
Paris-born Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala speaking at an event in Istanbul, in an undated photograph supplied by Anadolu Culture Center (AFP)

The Council of Europe (CoE) has announced the start of infringement proceedings against Turkey over its failure to abide by a ruling to release jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala.

The CoE's Committee of Ministers voted on Wednesday to refer Turkey to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), formally triggering proceedings which could see the country potentially suspended from the CoE, of which it was a founding member.

In a tweet, the Turkish Foreign Ministry accused the CoE of "intervention against the independent judiciary process" in Turkey.

Kavala, a businessman who founded a number of organisations advocating inter-communal dialogue and democratic reforms in Turkey, is being detained over allegations of involvement in mass anti-government protests in 2013 and the 2016 coup attempt.

In 2019 the EHRC ruled that Kavala's detention was political and called for his immediate release, a request which has been repeated numerous times but has so far been ignored by Turkey.

"No one can be surprised. This is what happens when a legally binding ruling is blatantly ignored," tweeted Nacho Sanchez Amor, a member of the European Parliament and the body's rapporteur on Turkey. "What a sad day for Turkey and for those who love this country."

Amnesty International’s Europe Director, Nils Muiznieks, said the decision showed that the CoE would not stand by and allow the "farcical charges" against Kavala to stand.

“The message from the Committee of Ministers today is clear: Turkey must release Osman Kavala and end his politically motivated persecution," he said in a statement.

1,555 days behind bars

The first step in any infringement process involves referring to the EHRC the question of whether Turkey had abided by the court's judgment, and if the court finds a violation, the Committee of Ministers can consider a number of penalties, including suspending Turkey's membership or voting rights at the CoE.

Turkey accused of sending scores of refugees back to Syria
Read More »

Kavala was initially prosecuted for supporting the Gezi Park protests, but was later acquitted of these charges in February 2020. However, he was immediately taken into police custody again as part of another investigation linked to the July 2016 coup attempt.

Kavala has now been imprisoned for 1,555 days without conviction, provoking harsh condemnation of Ankara both domestically and internationally.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has branded Kavala the "red Soros of Turkey", in reference to his links to Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros, who is accused in a number of countries of attempting to foment unrest.

Kavala's wife, Ayse Bugra, has described his imprisonment as "torture" and has cited concerns about the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in a number of Turkey's prisons.

"To have an idea about what my husband has been subjected to during more than 1,000 days of imprisonment, it is important to know the strange judiciary process through which he was arrested three times, released twice and acquitted once from different charges all based on the same investigation file," she told Middle East Eye in August 2020.

"He stays alone in a cell with a toilet and shower. He shares a small courtyard with another prisoner. He does not complain about the physical conditions and food - but then, he never complains anyway."

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.