Turkey’s EU hopes ‘destroyed’ by jailing of Osman Kavala - MEPs

Ankara has intentionally "destroyed" its chances of joining the EU by jailing philanthropist Osman Kavala, the European Parliament said Thursday, when it adopted a non-binding resolution condemning the life sentence handed down to the human rights activist.

"The current Turkish Government has deliberately destroyed any hopes of reopening its EU accession process or opening new chapters and closing open ones under the current circumstances," the resolution said.

The EP resolution strongly condemned the life sentence handed to Kavala by an Istanbul court last week on charges of attempting to topple the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The sentence by the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court refers to the 64-year-old’s alleged role in nationwide protests against the government in 2013 that began in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Kavala denies the charges.

The EP on Thursday called Kavala's detention "unjust, unlawful and illegitimate," demanding his immediate release.

Kavala has already spent four-and-a-half years in detention on charges of attempting to overthrow the government and the constitutional order, espionage and involvement in the July 15, 2016 coup attempt against the government of Erdoğan. 

Thursday’s resolution calls on Turkey to fully implement all judgements of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), and immediately release Kavala along with seven defendants in the Gezi trial.

In December 2019 the ECHR  found that Turkey had used detention for political ends, violating Kavala’s rights, including his right to liberty, and acting in bad faith. The court called for Kavala’s immediate release.

“Turkey needs to make concrete and sustained progress in the respect of fundamental rights. As a long-standing member of the Council of Europe, it must implement the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, as legal obligations. Turkey is no exception,” EU High Representative and Vice-President Josep Borrell told the EP debate on Kavala on Thursday before EP vote.

Any improvement in Turkey-EU relations “should depend on a real improvement of the civil and human rights and rule of law situation in Turkey,’’ the resolution said.

Turkey began accession talks with the EU in 2005, pledging to strengthen its democracy, guarantee rule of law and match regulations governing the economy with those of the 27-member bloc. But the EU froze talks on the chapters of Turkey’s accession following a military coup attempt in 2016, when it strayed further from Europe’s democratic standards.

“The EP Urges the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Commission and the Member States to continue to bring up the case of Mr Kavala, and all other cases of human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, politicians and academics, among others, subjected to arbitrary detention with their Turkish interlocutors,” it said.

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