Prominent human rights defender and philanthropist Osman Kavala released a statement to mark the four-year anniversary of his imprisonment, saying that he lost “four years of [his] life” but that he hopes his experience will lead to better conditions for those tried after him.
Kavala was detained on Nov. 1, 2017, on charges that he helped facilitate the Gezi Park protests of 2013. He was acquitted of those charges in February 2020, but Turkish authorities immediately re-arrested him on charges that he was involved in the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt.
In December 2019, the European Court of Human Rights called for Kavala’s urgent release, a call made by various European authorities ever since.
Most recently, a group of 10 Western ambassadors to Turkey issued a joint statement calling for Kavala’s release. The statement triggered a diplomatic crisis in which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened to declare the 10 ambassadors “persona non grata.”
Kavala in his statement on Nov. 1 acknowledged the emotional and psychological toll that four years of imprisonment has had on him.
“During this time, not only did I lose the opportunity to live my own life because I was in prison but my own reality was distorted because I was targeted and [they] tried to create an impression of me as a 'dark' and 'bad' person in public,” he wrote.
He said, however, that he finds comfort in the idea that his prolonged trial and imprisonment could lead to judicial reform and better treatment for dissidents.
“After losing four years of my life and becoming an 'issue concerning the country,' I find solace in the possibility that my experiences have helped to confront the problems of the judiciary and that those who will come after me will be treated more fairly,” he said.
Kavala has been the subject of increased media attention in the weeks since the ambassadors’ statement. On Oct. 22, President Erdoğan himself called Kavala a “residue of [George] Soros.” In response, Kavala said the statements were “regrettable.”
“The statements are extremely regrettable and do not correspond to the seriousness of the presidency,” Kavala said. He added that it would be pointless, now, for him to attend hearings of his trial and make a defense.
The next hearing of Kavala’s trial is scheduled for Nov. 26.