Turkey’s highest court rules activist’s pre-trial detention not violation of rights

Turkey’s Constitutional Court (AYM) on Wednesday rejected an application lodged by a civil society leader who claimed his continued pre-trial detention was in violation of his human rights.

The AYM decided that the imprisonment of Osman Kavala, a businessman, and a philanthropist, was not a violation of rights, ruling against its rapporteur’s assessment.

Kavala, a prominent human rights activist, is the chairman of Anadolu Kultur, a non-profit cultural institution promoting arts, culture, pluralism and peaceful coexistence.

Kavala’s lawyers first applied to the AYM for his release from prison in December 2017. So far their requests have been rejected 19 times by the AYM.

Milena Buyum, Turkey Campaigner of Amnesty International said the AYM’s “inexplicable” decision rubbed salt into the “wound of injustice” in Turkey.

“Kavala’s rights have been abused. He should not have spent a single day behind bars, let alone nearly 600 days. The charges against him must be dropped and he must be immediately released,” said Buyum.

According to Buyum, allegations against Kavala are an attempt “to silence one of Turkey’s most prominent civil society figures”.

“All eyes now turn to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which is currently considering Osman Kavala’s case and must urgently remedy this travesty of justice,” Buyum added.

Kavala applied to the ECtHR in the eighth month of his detention. The ECtHR accepted his demand to prioritize the case and called on the Turkish Ministry of Justice to submit its defense regarding his arrest.

Kavala was arrested on charges of attempting to abolish, replace or prevent the implementation of the constitutional order through use of force and violence and of attempting, by use of force and violence, to abolish the government, or prevent it from fulfilling its duties in accordance with Articles 309 and 312 of the Penal Code.

Kavala was detained by police at Istanbul Ataturk Airport on October 18, 2017.

On November 1, 2017, Istanbul 1st Criminal Court of Peace remanded him in custody, claiming he was trying to overthrow the government and the constitutional order through the 2013 Gezi Park protests and the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. Since then, he has been in pre-trial detention.

The indictment in the case was raised against Kavala and 15 others in March, 16 months after he was arrested. The state is seeking life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, the most severe sentence in Turkey’s criminal law.

The indictment provided no evidence regarding its allegations, according to Human Rights Watch, an NGO conducting regular and systematic investigations of human rights abuses around the world.

The first hearing in the case is scheduled to take place on June 24 at the Silivri Prison. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly blamed Kavala for his alleged role in the Gezi protests by sponsoring sedition through Anadolu Kultur which has ties to the local branch of the Open Society Foundation, established by American-Hungarian investor George Soros. Erdogan sees Soros as one of the financiers of the protests.

The Gezi protests began in 2013 as a bid to stop the proposed demolition of the Gezi Park, one of the last green spaces in Istanbul’s Beyoglu district. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) planned to replace the park with an Ottoman-style shopping mall, a project pushed personally by then Erdogan, who was then prime minister.

Erdogan’s uncompromising stance and a heavy-handed police crackdown on protesters sparked countrywide demonstrations, turning an environmental movement into a revolt against increased authoritarianism.

Kavala: 15 months in pretrial detention and still no indictment

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