U.S., Germany condemn Turkey’s conviction of philanthropist Kavala

The United States and Germany slammed a Turkish court's decision on Monday to jail philanthropist and human rights defender Osman Kavala for life.

The conviction, which found Kavala guilty of attempting to overthrow the government by financing nationwide protests in 2013, was inconsistent with respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said in a written statement on Monday.

“The United States is deeply troubled and disappointed by the court’s decision to convict Osman Kavala today,” Price said. “We again call on Turkey to release Osman Kavala, in keeping with European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rulings, as well as to free all others arbitrarily incarcerated.”

The Istanbul court also sentenced several other people to 18 years in jail for aiding an attempt to overthrow the government. It said it acquitted Kavala of espionage charge due to lack of evidence. The Turkish businessman had spent four and a half years behind bars without a conviction ahead of yesterday’s hearing. In 2019, the ECHR ordered Kavala’s immediate release citing lack of evidence and a breach to his rights to freedom.

The U.S government is “gravely concerned by the continued judicial harassment of civil society, media, political and business leaders in Turkey, including through prolonged pretrial detention, overly broad claims of support for terrorism, and criminal insult cases,” Price said. 

Turkey had defied a Feb. 2 deadline set by the Council of Europe to release Kavala. The Council then started infringement proceedings, meaning Turkey could be suspended from the organisation.

“The people of Turkey deserve to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms without fear of retribution,” Price said. “The right to exercise freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association is enshrined in Turkey’s constitution and its international law obligations and OSCE commitments.”

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock condemned the ruling. The court’s decision “blatantly contradicts the constitutional standards and international obligations that Turkey commits itself to as a member of the Council of Europe and EU accession candidate,” she said in a written statement.

“We expect Osman Kavala to be released immediately -- the European Court of Human Rights has bindingly committed Turkey to do so,“ Baerbock said.

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