Osman Kavala and the Gezi Case

Osman Kavala is a well-known Turkish businessperson and philanthropist. He is the chairperson of the organization Anadolu Kültür, which supports local cultural initiatives by strengthening national and international collaborations and emphasizing cultural diversity to create a culture of peace in the society. He is acknowledged for his contributions in the area of protection and preservation of cultural heritage also by international organizations: in 2019, Kavala was awarded the European Archeological Heritage Prize[Please visit About Osman Kavala and Civil Society Activities pages for detailed information on Osman Kavala and his civil society activities.]

On 18 October 2017, Osman Kavala was detained at an airport in Istanbul as he was returning from Gaziantep, where he met with municipal officials about a cultural project involving Syrian refugee artists. The indictment that came out 16 months after his imprisonment alleged that the nationwide protests of 2013, which started out against a construction project in Gezi Park at central Istanbul and spread throughout 81 provinces of the country, were the outcome of a foreign conspiracy to overthrow the Turkish government, and Kavala was the national organizer of this conspiracy. Currently, he is being tried with 15 other people facing an aggravated life sentence for involvement in nation-wide protests over five years after the protests have taken place, and Kavala is the only person in detention pertaining to Gezi Case. As of January 2020, he has been deprived of his freedom for 27 months[Please visit Judicial Process page for detailed information on the judicial developments within last 27 months.]

On 10 December 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has announced its judgment regarding Osman Kavala’s detention, concluding that the articles 5.1, 5.4 and 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights have been violated, and called for his “immediate release”. This was followed by the statements from the European External Action Services and the European Parliament repeating their previous calls for the release of Kavala. There has been extensive national and international media coverage of the ECHR judgment on the case including the Financial Times and Süddeutsche Zeitung[Please visit Media page to access the entire media coverage regarding Osman Kavala since his detention.]

Nevertheless, on the court hearing of 24 December 2019, Istanbul 30th High Criminal Court ruled the continuation of detention of Osman Kavala by considering the possibility that the Ministry of Justice may contest the ECtHR decision and ask for a revision. As the lawyers of Kavala stated, “the legal authority to review the ECtHR judgments lies in the impartial and independent Turkish Courts: yet Istanbul 30th High Criminal Court has delegated this authority to the Ministry of Justice in order to delay the process. Beyond being unlawful, this decision indicates that Turkey severs the ties with the European Convention of Human Rights and the principles of international criminal law that the country has long been seeking to establish.”

The problem with delaying the compliance with the ECtHR judgment is not limited to the further extension of Kavala’s already very long imprisonment. It also bears the possibility of grave consequences in the not so distant future and reveals the alarming situation of the judicial system, thus the fundamental rights and democracy, in Turkey.