The European Union has slammed Turkey for keeping Osman Kavala behind bars, saying the renowned philanthropist and businessman's continued arrest “runs against Turkey’s stated commitment to the rule of law and the respect of fundamental rights, including the presumption of innocence.”
“The European Court of Human Rights [ECHR] had concluded, more than a year ago, that Osman Kavala’s arrest and pre-trial detention took place in the absence of evidence to support a reasonable suspicion he had committed an offense and pursued an ulterior purpose, namely to silence him and dissuade other human rights defenders,” Nabila Massrali, the EU's spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy, said in a statement on Dec. 21.
The statement called on the Turkish judiciary to follow-up on the Council of Europe’s recommendations, implement the ECHR's 2019-dated judgment and release Kavala as a “matter of urgency.”
“As a candidate country and long-standing member of the Council of Europe, Turkey urgently needs to make concrete and sustained progress in the respect of fundamental rights, which are a cornerstone of EU-Turkey relations,” the statement read.
The statement came after an Istanbul court last week ruled to keep Kavala behind bars and scheduled the next hearing of the trial for Feb. 5.
The second trial into Kavala consists of charges of his alleged involvement in an attempted 2016 coup. The renowned activist has already been detained for more than three years without conviction in what critics call a silencing of dissent.
Kavala, 63, told the court on Dec. 18 via video link from prison that none of the charges are based on "facts, evidence or objective evaluation of a concrete criminal act."
The allegations "are in stark contrast to my world view, ethical values and the goals of the projects carried out by the civil society organizations under my supervision," he said.
His jail time was "mental torture," he added as his wife listened among a crowd that spilled out of the court and into the hallway.
In December 2019, the ECHR ruled that his detention took place in the absence of sufficient evidence that he had committed an offense, in violation of his right to liberty and security under the European Convention on Human Rights.