Five years to the day have passed since the businessman and patron of the arts Osman Kavala was arrested at Istanbul airport. Kavala has been in custody ever since, although the European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly called for his immediate release.
Engagement at the level of civil society must not be a crime. It is therefore high time for Turkey to finally meet its international obligations and release Osman Kavala. #FreeKavala
Osman Kavala, the well-known Turkish businessman, philanthropist and founder of the cultural institution Anadolu Kültür, was arrested at Istanbul airport on 18 October 2017. The Turkish public prosecutor’s office accused him of “attempting to overthrow the government” in connection with what became known as the Gezi Park protests in 2013. Immediately after his acquittal on these charges on 18 February 2020, he was taken back into custody as part of a second investigative proceeding alleging his participation in the 2016 coup attempt. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) already in 2019 described Kavala’s situation as politically motivated detention and in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), calling for his immediate release from pre-trial custody. Despite this, he was sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment by a Turkish court on 25 April 2022, with his seven co-defendants being handed down 18-year prison sentences. On 11 July 2022, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that, by not releasing Osman Kavala, Turkey is also violating Article 46 § 1 of the ECHR (obligation to comply with its judgment). In connection with Turkey’s refusal to implement the ECHR judgment, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers initiated infringement proceedings against Turkey in 2021.