Turkey summons 10 ambassadors after call for Kavala's release

Turkey's foreign ministry has summoned the ambassadors of 10 countries over what it said was an "irresponsible" statement that called for the urgent release of philanthropist Osman Kavala.

Lawyers and supporters of the Gezi solidarity group gather in front of the Justice Palace, the Caglayan Courthouse, as a Turkish court began the re-trial of philanthropist Osman Kavala and 15 others over their role in nationwide protests in 2013.

Duvar English - Reuters

Turkey's foreign ministry summoned the ambassadors of 10 countries, including the United States, Germany and France, on Oct. 19 over what it said was an "irresponsible" statement that called for the urgent release of philanthropist Osman Kavala.

The statement, shared by some of the embassies on Oct. 18, called for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala's case, four years after he was jailed, saying the case "cast a shadow over respect for democracy."

The Turkish businessman has been in prison since late 2017 without being convicted, in what rights groups say is symbolic of a crackdown on dissent under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) called for Kavala's immediate release in late 2019 over a lack of reasonable suspicion that he committed an offense, ruling that his detention served to silence him.

He was acquitted last year of charges related to nationwide protests in 2013, but the ruling was overturned this year and combined with charges in another case related to a coup attempt in 2016.

"The continuing delays in (Kavala's) trial, including by merging different cases and creating new ones after a previous acquittal, cast a shadow over respect for democracy, the rule of law and transparency in the Turkish judiciary system," the embassies said in the statement.

"Noting the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights on the matter, we call for Turkey to secure his urgent release," it said.

The other parties to the statement were Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland and New Zealand.

State of law

The foreign ministry said it told ambassadors on Oct. 19 that it rejected the "unacceptable" statement aimed to pressure Turkey's judiciary and also politicize judicial processes.

"It was emphasized that Turkey is a democratic state of law that is respectful towards human rights and they were reminded that the Turkish judiciary would not be affected by such an irresponsible statement," it said.

The diplomats were warned that they should remain within their responsibilities as part of international agreements, the foreign ministry added.

Responding to the statement on Oct. 18, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said Turkey is a democratic and lawful state. "Your recommendation and suggestion cast a shadow on your understanding of law and democracy," he said on Twitter.

The Council of Europe has said it will begin infringement proceedings against Turkey if Kavala is not released. Turkey would be the second country against which infringement proceedings have been launched.

The next hearing in the case against Kavala, who has denied all charges, and others will be held on Nov. 26.