Bärbel Kofler, the German government’s Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance at the Federal Foreign Office, has called on Turkey to abide by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)’s order to release influential businessman, philanthropist and civil society activist Osman Kavala.
Kofler’s statement came after the ECHR rejected Turkey’s request for referral of Kavala’s case to the court’s Grand Chamber. With this ruling, the ECHR’s Dec. 10-dated judgement urging Turkish authorities to relase Kavala has become final.
“I cannot comprehend why Osman Kavala remains in detention despite the European Court of Human Rights judgment and his acquittal in Istanbul on 18 February 2020. As of today, the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights is final. I therefore call on the Turkish Government to meet the obligations it has entered into under the European Convention on Human Rights,” Kofler said in a written statement on May 12.
“In light of the COVID 19 pandemic, there are currently very specific obligations to ensure prisoners’ protection. I encourage Turkey to make a humanitarian gesture also in respect of those not covered by the existing amnesty arrangements,” he further said.
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.
Human rights advocates say that the “new” investigation is in fact the same one under which the authorities put Kavala in jail in 2017. They say the prosecutors have refashioned their old investigation into a brand new charge.