Osman Kavala; Human Rights' Defenders Must not be Trialled

We, academics and researchers participating in the EU financed program Towards a European Theory of Justice and fairness (ETHOS) express our concerns about the recent arrest of Osman Kavala, and of many others who are detained in Turkey for defending democracy, human rights and freedom of expression. As researchers partaking in a research program that is working to develop building blocks for a theory of justice and fairness in Europe, and in which Turkey is involved together with Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands, Portugal and the UK, we defend human rights, including the right to a fair trial and call for the recognition of pluralism in democracy.

Osman Kavala is also the husband of one of the leading researchers in our program, Prof. Dr. Ayşe Buğra Boğaziçi University Academic Member. As her friend and colleague, we stand for the rights of her husband, and every Turkish citizen to get a fair trial.

Kavala was detained on 18 October Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport. He has been held in detention for 13 days and accused by some media, before any formal charges were made against him, which run clearly against the presumption of innocence.

Charges are now being made and go beyond imagination: Osman Kavala is accused of organizing and overseeing the Gezi park incidents of 2013 where millions of Turkish people protested against the limitations of freedom of the press, expression, and assembly, and the government's encroachment on Turkey's secularism. Charges claim that he was involved in organizing in these incidents, and in which “all terror organisations (FETÖ/PDY – PKK/KCK – DHKPC, MLKP) were involved in” … and that he partook in the coup attempt of 15 July 2016.

Osman Kavala’s case speaks for many others who are kept detained in Turkey without a fair trial. He is one of Turkey’s most important intellectual and cultural figures. He has played a prominent part both in defending the rights and liberties of all in Turkey, including Kurds and Armenians, and in bringing together people of diverse political viewpoints to discuss their differences and to work out a common language of civil dialogue. Nothing could be more important in Turkey – and in many other countries – today.

Osman Kavala has played an important role not just in encouraging discussions inside Turkey but also in presenting the complexities of Turkey to the outside world. His work has been invaluable in making many people outside the country understand and appreciate Turkey. His work should be celebrated, not condemned.

We call for the immediate release of Osman Kavala. We call also for the release of the many others – academics, journalists and public servants – who have also been arrested and detained in recent months in similar circumstances, for exercising their rights or protecting or promoting the rights of others. We urgently ask the Council of Europe, the European Council, the European Parliament, and all our governments to protest via diplomatic means. We support the work of all those in Turkey striving to create a strong civil society in which political disagreements and disputes can be resolved through public discussion and mutual respect.

Trudie Knijn; Professor of interdisciplinary social science and coordinator of ETHOS, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.

Dorota Lepianka; Co-coordinator of ETHOS and researcher at Utrecht University, The Netherlands Bridget Anderson, Professor of Mobilities, Migration and Citizenship at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom.

Bert van den Brink; Dean of University College Roosevelt and Professor of Political and Social Philosophy at Utrecht University, The Netherlands.

Marie-Pierre Granger; Associate Professor, affiliated with three CEU units (School of Public Policy, International Relations Department, and Legal Studies Department), Budapest, Hungary.

Maria- Paula Meneses; Principal Researcher at the Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal.

Simon Rippon; Associate Professor in philosophy and public policy at Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, Hungary.

Klaus Starl; Executive Secretary of the European Training and Research Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, Graz, Austria.

Sybe de Vries; Professor of EU Single Market Law and Fundamental Rights and Jean Monnet Chair, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.