An Istanbul court’s ruling to acquit businessman Osman Kavala and eight other defendants in the 2013 Gezi Park case had a broad repercussion in the foreign press, with also several European politicians and activists praising the decision.
Reuters news agency covered the news with the title “Turkish court delivers surprise acquittal in landmark Gezi trial” and said that the case “was widely regarded as a test of justice in Turkey.”
‘One of the most important human rights cases in Turkey’
The New York Times referred to the case as “one of the most important human rights cases in Turkey.” It said that the case was criticized by several people for it being “unjust” and was viewed as “a litmus test” for the Turkish justice system “against the increasing authoritarian regime.”
Also, several European politicians welcomed the court’s ruling, sharing the news on their social account.
Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister, tweeted: “Good news from Turkey today! Long overdue.”
The European Parliament former Rapporteur for Turkey Kati Piri tweeted: “The best news in a long time from Turkey! Osman Kavala acquitted and judge ordered his release.”
European Parliament’s new Rapporteur on Turkey, Nacho Sanchez Amor, initially wrote on his social account: “All #Gezi defendants acquitted. Good news from Turkey (finally).”
Just hours later, Amor posted another tweet, this time commenting on the Istanbul prosecutors’ issuing a new detention warrant for Kavala, over his alleged ties to the failed 2016 coup attempt.
“I can’t believe that Kavala has been rearrested after the general acquittal in #GeziTrial today, as is being reported just now. No way to believe in any improvement in Turkey if the Prosecutor is undermining any step ahead. Back again in dark period,” Amor wrote.
Lisel Hintz, a Turkey expert at Johns Hopkins University, shared the acquittal ruling with the following statement: “Fantastic news that all defendants in the Gezi trial have been acquitted! It’s been a long time since I’ve been this happy at news coming out of Turkey.”
In response to the ruling, the secretary-general of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejcinovic Buric, said, “We welcome today’s ruling from the court in Istanbul ordering Osman Kavala to be released, in line with last December’s Chamber judgment from the European Court of Human Rights.”
Buric added, “Free speech, the right to organize non-violent protests and the right to liberty are basic human rights in all Council of Europe member states.”
Germany’s foreign office has similarly welcomed the ruling. “We are relieved that Osman Kavala and his 8 co-defendants have been acquitted. We now expect a speedy end to the proceedings against the other defendants. A courageous and independent civil society is a prerequisite for pluralism and democracy,” its said on its official Twitter account.
The U.S. Embassy in Turkey also released a message “welcoming” the court’s acquittal ruling. “We have followed the trial of Osman Kavala and other civil society activists closely, and welcome today’s court decision to acquit and release the defendants,” the embassy’s official Twitter account said.
A similar statement came from Amnesty International on Feb. 18. The group’s Turkey campaigner, Milena Buyum, said in a written statement: “Today’s decision is hugely welcome and confirms what has been clear to the entire world for more than two years.”
Buyum said that the judgement was a “touchstone” for Turkish justice and said the Amnesty hopes “it signals a shift in political climate in the country and brings to an end these politically motivated prosecutions.”
“It is time for Turkey to end the relentless crackdown on dissenting voices and acquit all those facing trumped up political charges.”
The Istanbul 30th Heavy Penal Court on Feb. 18 acquitted nine of the 16 suspects over their alleged role in Gezi Park protests in 2013, in a case that had drawn strong criticism from Western allies and human rights groups.
Philanthropist Kavala was ordered to be released after more than two years in jail. The European Court of Human Rights in December called for his immediate release, saying there was a lack of reasonable suspicion that he had committed an offense.
The case of seven defendants – Can Dündar, Mehmet Ali Alabora, Ayşe Pınar Alabora, Gökçe Yılmaz Handan, Handan Meltem Arıkan, İnanç Ekmekçi and Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu – who are abroad and were being tried in absentia, was separated but arrest warrants for them were lifted. One lawyer said they were also expected to be acquitted.