Müzeyyen Yüce / DUVAR
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has claimed that Turkey implemented the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling for the immediate release of philanthropist, human rights defender and businessman Osman Kavala.
In response to questions in parliament from opposition politicians, Çavuşoğlu said that Kavala remains behind bars for a different case.
Kavala was arrested in 2017 on charges that he helped to plan the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Turkey. He was cleared of these charges in February 2020 but immediately arrested on charges that he orchestrated the July 2016 coup attempt. Kavala has been held in pre-trial detention for over four years without a conviction.
In December 2019, over two years after Kavala’s detention, the ECHR ruled his detention a violation of his rights and ordered his release. Turkey refused to do so, despite repeated warnings by the court. As per the Turkish Constitution, Turkey is legally obliged to implement decisions made by the European court as law.
In September 2021, the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe warned Turkey to release Kavala by the end of November 2021 or face infringement proceedings. Turkey is a founding member of the council and could lose its veto and voting rights if it continues to keep Kavala behind bars.
Regardless, Çavuşoğlu stood in defiance in front of parliament. He said that Kavala was released following the decision - likely referring to his February 2020 acquittal and re-arrest - but was still detained on other charges.
"Turkish courts implemented the decision of the European Court of Human Rights regarding the Kavala case and he was released,” he said, “Kavala was not released from prison because there were other cases against him.”
He further said, in seeming contradiction, that Turkey was not the only country to not implement ECHR rulings for years. He claimed, without basis, that France, Germany, and Norway are also guilty of this. According to ECHR data, none of these countries have non-implemented cases from before 2020.
“Why is the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe targeting only Turkey while these countries do not implement the decisions of the ECHR? We object to this,” Çavuşoğlu said, “There are double standards here, they are playing politics.”
Çavuşoğlu was further asked about claims that the Turkish ambassador to the United States, Hasan Murat Mercan, met with Henry Barkey. Çavuşoğlu claimed this was false, and that it had been, in fact, a Republican People's Party (CHP) representative that had met with the academic.
Kavala is not the only prisoner Turkey is holding against the ECHR. In December 2020, the court also ruled that the continued detention of the former co-chair of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş, violated his rights. Regardless, Turkey has refused to release him and could face further infringement proceedings if the government fails to do so.
(English version by Erin O'Brien)