PACE rapporteurs denied visit to Osman Kavala

The Turkish Justice Ministry on Friday rejected a request by John Howell and Boriss Cilevics, Turkey rapporteurs for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), to visit jailed philanthropist and businessman Osman Kavala.

Not being able to visit Kavala was “saddening”, Howell told Euro News Turkish. “We came here to understand first-hand what Kavala thinks of the case against him, and to hear his views,” the rapporteur said.

Howell also called for Turkey to comply with several European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rulings for Kavala’s immediate release.

The council has launched infringement procedures against Ankara over Kavala’s continued arrest. Turkey could be expelled from the CoE, of which it was a founding member, if the non-compliance continues.

Rapporteurs expect Turkey to respect the ECHR rulings, Howell said.

The pair met with Kavala’s lawyers, representatives from the Justice Ministry and other government officials, and several NGOs during their fact-finding visit. These meeting were “fruitful”, Howell said.

“However, it seems clear to us that evidence deemed insufficient by the Strasbourg Court to justify even a pre-trial detention was nevertheless used as the basis for the harshest possible sentence at first instance level,” Howell said, according to a PACE statement.

Kavala was arrested in 2017 over allegations of funding the massive anti-government protests of 2013, dubbed the Gezi Park protests after the small park they set out to protect. Over several months, some four million people took to the streets against the Turkish government’s increasing authoritarian tendencies and the repression of dissent in the country.

The philanthropist was acquitted of charges of attempting to overthrow the government in 2020, but was arrested again before he could be released, this time over charges of espionage. On April 25, Kavala was sentenced to life in prison while seven other prominent rights advocates were issued similarly harsh sentences.

The case against Kavala lacked evidence that the philanthropist committed any offence and was politically motivated, according to the ECHR.

Turkey maintains the ECHR ruling only applied to Kavala’s original detention, and that it is not related to the current conviction. The rapporteurs, however, believe that the judgment “also applies to the subsequent indictment for which he was re-arrested”.

“We believe that resolving the Kavala case lies in the hands of the Turkish judicial system,” the rapporteurs said, adding that Turkish courts had “the capacity to find a legal solution which complies with the Strasbourg ruling … without political pressure or undue interference”.

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