Main opposition leader calls for release of Kavala, Demirtaş

Turkey's main opposition CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has asked why philanthropist Osman Kavala and renowned Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş are still behind bars. “I do not want that innocent people are imprisoned with the feelings of grudge and vengeance,” he said.

Main opposition CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is seen addressing a meeting in this photo.

Duvar English

Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has once again called for judicial independence in the country, saying that the government is keeping innocent people behind bars “with the feelings of grudge and vengeance.”

“We want justice in our country. I do not want it for myself, but on behalf of 83 million people [living in Turkey]. I do not want that innocent people are imprisoned with feelings of grudge and vengeance. Why are Osman Kavala, Selahattin Demirtaş, military students, lawyers seeking justice behind bars?” Kılıçdaroğlu said during a meeting of his party in parliament on Oct. 12.

Kavala, a philantrophist and businessman, has been in jail in Turkey without conviction for nearly four years, charged with financing nationwide Gezi Park protests in 2013 and for his alleged involvement in an attempted coup in 2016.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said in 2019 that Kavala's detention was political, calling for his immediate release. Turkey has not complied with the ruling.

Demirtaş, former head of pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), on the other had, has been jailed for nearly five years.

The ECHR ruled in 2020 that Demirtaş was detained without evidence to support reasonable suspicion, and that his detention aimed to limit freedom of political debate. Turkey again defied the ECHR's judgment by not releasing Demirtaş.

Both Kavala and Demirtaş are seen as a threat by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The president accuses Kavala of being the “Turkish leg” of billionaire U.S. philanthropist George Soros, while calls Demirtaş a “terrorist.”

It is known that terror charges in Turkey often target dissidents as a way to quash politicians, civil-society activists, journalists as thousands of them remain in prison without any concrete evidence.

Kılıçdaroğlu vowed that if his party comes to power in the upcoming elections, they will “embrace everyone.” “We will not do any harm to anyone. I know that citizens have problems. I know that there are serious problems but do not abandon yourself to despair. Turkey is a powerful country; it is just that it cannot be managed in a good way, that is the basic problem,” Kılıçdaroğu said.

The opposition leader further vowed to run the country on the basis of “justice, morality, knowledge and merit” and “build a Turkey in which everyone is happy.”

He further said that Turkey needs a new “path” and that the CHP will not “run the country with vengeance and rage," as is the case now.