CoE calls for immediate release of jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala

The Committee of Ministers of 47 members of the Council of Europe called on Turkey to implement a recent European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judgement and immediately release businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala, a CoE statement said on Friday.

The committee made the decision in its latest regular meeting on the implementation of ECHR judgements.

More than two years after Kavala was first arrested, the ECHR ruled in December last year that the philanthropist’s rights to liberty and security had been violated over his detention, which was not based on sufficient evidence, the statement said.

The ECHR also ruled that Kavala’s arrest had been under ulterior purposes, “to silence him and dissuade other human rights defenders,” it said, adding that the Turkish Constitutional Court (AYM) had taken too long to issue a verdict on Kavala’s appeal, which is yet to come.

The top court “concluded that [the Turkish government] was to take every measure to put an end to the applicant’s detention and to secure his immediate release,” it said.

Kavala was arrested on Nov. 1, 2017 on charges of attempting to overthrow the Turkish government by funding the 2013 anti-government protests centred around Gezi Park. He was acquitted in February this year, but before he could be released, he was arrested again on charges of aiding and abetting the failed coup plot of July 15, 2016. His third arrest came on March 9, over espionage charges.

During the committee meeting, representatives for the Turkish government said the ECHR ruling pertained to the previous arrests, and that the basis for the third arrest on March 9 was not addressed in it. The AYM was prioritising Kavala’s appeal, they told the committee.

Kavala had appealed to the AYM about the insufficient evidence against him, and to voice that authorities had failed to implement the December ECHR ruling. The Committee of Ministers urged Turkish authorities to inspect the appeal to Turkish authorities “on the basis of ECHR judgements, and as soon as possible,” Deutsche Welle Turkish reported on Friday.

Turkish authorities, Kavala’s legal representatives, various NGOs, and the CoE Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović had submitted documents to the committee before the Committee of Ministers decision.

The documents submitted by the Turkish government said Turkey had technically complied with the December ruling when Kavala was acquitted in February, according to DW Turkish, while Kavala’s lawyers said it had not, as the philanthropist was never actually released from prison.

Mijatović’s documents showed disagreement as well, saying that the Turkish government had no intention to release Kavala or to implement the ruling, hence it issued several arrest orders on a variety of charges.

The committee is set to resume examination of Kavala’s c ase in its next regular meeting on ECHR judgements from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, “given the urgency of the situation,” the statement said.

“In accordance with the committee’s working methods, the Turkish authorities have until 11 November 2020 to submit an action plan setting out the general measures to be taken to prevent similar violations of the human rights convention occurring in the future,” it said.