Council of Europe issues final warning to Turkey to release Kavala, Demirtaş

The Council of Europe has given Turkey its final warning to release political prisoners Osman Kavala and Selahattin Demirtaş. It said that infringement proceedings against Turkey would start in November if philanthropist Osman Kavala is not released before then. Separately, the Committee of Ministers also reviewed the case of former HDP co-chair Demirtaş, calling on Turkey to submit an action plan until Sept. 30.

This collage photo shows Demirtaş (L) and Kavala.

Reuters - Duvar English 

The Council of Europe said on Sept. 17 it would begin infringement proceedings against member state Turkey in November if philanthropist Osman Kavala is not released from prison in accordance with a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling.

Osman Kavala, a businessman, has been in jail in Turkey without conviction for nearly four years, charged with financing nationwide Gezi Park protests in 2013 and for his alleged involvement in an attempted coup in 2016.

The ECHR said in 2019 that Kavala's detention was political, calling for his immediate release. Turkey has not complied with the ruling.

The Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, which oversees the implementation of ECHR's decisions, has repeatedly called on Turkey to release Kavala in line with the court's ruling.

Following this week's meeting, the committee said it would notify Turkey ahead of a meeting at the end of November that it would begin infringement processes if Kavala is not released before then.

The first step in the infringement process involves referring to the ECHR the question of whether Turkey has abided by the court's judgment.

If the court finds a violation, the Committee of Ministers can then begin considering which measures should be taken. Turkey's membership or voting rights at the CoE could be suspended at the end of the proceedings

The ECHR delivered its first judgment in infringement proceedings in 2019, as part of an earlier ruling that called on Azerbaijan for the release of a politician.

"Govt. of Turkey on formal notice for persistent political persecution: Free Osman Kavala or face shame of being referred back to ECHR for refusing to abide by its ruling," said Nils Muiznieks, Europe Regional Director at Amnesty International.

"Ball firmly in Turkey's court, high time to do the right thing & release him immediately," he said on Twitter.

Separately, the Committee of Ministers also reviewed the case of Selahattin Demirtaş, former head of pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), who has been jailed for nearly five years.

The ECHR ruled earlier this year that Demirtaş was detained without evidence to support reasonable suspicion, and that his detention aimed to limit freedom of political debate.

The committee said on Sept. 16 that Demirtaş should be released, a previous ruling against should be quashed and an ongoing case against him should be dropped.

Nothing the deadline to submit an action plan expired on June 22, 2021, it called on Turkey to provide information on Demirtaş's case until Sept. 30. 

"The six-month period for submitting an action plan expired on 22 June 2021 and the authorities have not requested an extension. The Committee could therefore urge the authorities to provide information on general measures before 30 September for its next examination of the case at its December meeting," it said. 

"The Committee of Ministers couldn't be clearer in its Demirtaş decision," Amnesty's Muiznieks said.

"Turkey must free Selahattin Demirtaş immediately."