Duvar English

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has rejected an appeal by the Turkish government over the court’s decision on influential businessman, philanthropist and civil society activist Osman Kavala.

Kavala was jailed in November of 2017 related to charges concerning the 2013 Gezi Park protests. He was accused of “attempting to overthrow the government” by organizing and financing the nationwide protests.

The ECHR on Dec. 10, 2019 ruled that Turkey violated the rights of Kavala and called for his immediate release. It cited a “lack of reasonable suspicion that the applicant had committed an offense” in its ruling.

Ankara however did not implement the decision immediately. The prominent activist was acquitted by a Turkish court in the Gezi Park trial on Feb. 18, but only to be re-arrested just a few hours later in a newly launched case – this time on “espionage charges.”

On March 9, one day before Turkey objected to the ECHR judgment’s ruling concerning Kavala, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office filed their “new” charges in the espionage case, citing Kavala’s alleged contact with U.S. academic Henri Barkey as evidence. The prosecutors put in the investigation file Historical Traffic Search (HTS) records allegedly confirming communication between Kavala and Barkey, which were challenged by Kavala’s lawyers.

As the ECHR’s May 12-dated ruling pertains to Kavala’s imprisonment stemming from the Gezi Park trial, the philanthropist will not be released, T24 news portal said.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a human rights lawyer, however said that the “new” investigation is in fact the same one under which the authorities had put Kavala in jail in 2017. Tanrıkulu said that the prosecutors had refashioned their old investigation into a brand new charge as they had used the same alleged HTS records as evidence when Kavala had been jailed under the Gezi Park trial.

“There is no other evidence cited in the new investigation file than the ones brought forward on the first day [of Kavala’s arrest]. He was acquitted according to those evidence and the ECHR ruled for his immediate release. And since this decision [of the ECHR] has been finalized, he needs to be immediately released,” Tanrıkulu said in a video posted on his official Twitter account on May 12.

Tanrıkulu called on the Turkish Justice Ministry to abide by the ECHR’s decision saying that the top European rights court’s rulings are binding.