Rights activist Osman Kavala marks six years in prison

Influential businessperson, philanthropist and civil society activist Osman Kavala has been behind bars since Nov. 1, 2017 in a legal saga which experts say illustrates the deterioration of the rule of law in Turkey. In a letter, Kavala said he did not lose his hope that “law will eventually prevail” in Turkey.

Duvar English

Nov. 1 marked the sixth anniversary of the Turkish government’s arrest of Osman Kavala, a prominent Turkish philanthropist and civil society leader.

In a letter, Kavala said he had been behind the bars for six years without any evidence that he had committed a crime.

“While waiting for an end to this, my prison conditions deteriorated when the Court of Cassation upheld this injustice. I was honoured to receive the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, awarded by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), a prize named in honour of Vaclav Havel, who himself endured incarceration,” he said.

He also said the attacks of Israel and Hamas on civilians “left me unable to feel any content.”

“As Havel said, “‘the most important thing is not losing hope.’ I have not lost hope that the rule of law will eventually prevail in my country,” he concluded.

Kavala was arrested in 2017 on charges that he helped to plan the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Turkey. He was cleared of these charges in February 2020 but immediately arrested on charges that he orchestrated the July 2016 coup attempt, seen at the time as a way of getting around the ECHR's 2019 ruling that called for his immediate release.

In April 2022, an Istanbul court sentenced Kavala to aggravated life in prison without parole on charges of attempting to overthrow the government in the Gezi Park trial.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan previously said they will not respect ECHR’s decision, triggering proceedings which could result in Turkey's suspension from the Council of Europe, of which it is a founding member.

The verdict was seen as symbolic of a crackdown on dissent under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the punishment of the government's perceived foes through the judiciary. All have denied the charges, saying the protests developed spontaneously.