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Turkey told to free jailed activist Osman Kavala

December 10, 2019

The Strasbourg-based court has ruled the prominent businessman and activist was detained in order to silence him. Kavala has been put on trial for attempting to overthrow the government.

Osman Kavala
Image: picture-alliance/AA/D. Aydemir

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday told Turkey to release philanthropist and human rights activist Osman Kavala.

The 62-year-old was arrested in November 2017 and accused of organizing anti-government protests in Istanbul's Gezi Park four years earlier.

The ECHR cited a "lack of reasonable suspicion that the applicant had committed an offense" in its ruling.

The court said Turkey must now "take every measure to put an end to the applicant's detention and to secure his immediate release."

Turkish police violently dispersed demonstrators occupying Gezi Park in 2013
Turkish police violently dispersed demonstrators occupying Gezi Park in 2013Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo

'Politically motivated'

Kavala was accused of making an "attempt to overthrow the government'' by organizing and financing an "uprising" with 15 other defendants, charges he denied.

Human rights groups said the accusation was baseless and aimed at silencing civil society activists. The charge carries a potential life prison sentence. 

The 657-page indictment against Kavala and the other defendants lists Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who was prime minister at the time among the injured parties. 

Erdogan has personally attacked Kavala, calling him the agent in Turkey of US financier George Soros.

Kavala is the chairman of the Anadolu Kultur (Anatolian Culture) center, which campaigns for rights and cultural diversity including Kurdish issues. 

The 2013 protests began to protect Istanbul's small Gezi Park from development but quickly evolved into wider anti-government demonstrations across Turkey following a brutal police crackdown against mostly peaceful protesters.

ECHR rulings are legally binding; however, Turkey has frequently not implemented them. Ankara's justice ministry declined to comment on Tuesday's ECHR ruling.

The next hearing in Kavala's trial will take place December 24-25. 

Read more: Remembering the Gezi Park protests and the dream of a different Turkey 

kw/rc (AP, dpa)

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