Turkish court extends worker’s detention despite pressure

A Turkish court has extended the prison term of philanthropist Osman Kavala, whose case sparked a diplomatic crisis with the US and other Western countries calling for his release.

ISTANBUL – A Turkish court on Friday extended the prison term of philanthropist Osman Kavala, whose case has sparked diplomatic trouble with the US and other Western nations as they called for his release.

The court’s decision paves the way for the Council of Europe to initiate infringement proceedings against Turkey.

Kavala has been imprisoned without pleading guilty for more than four years, fueling claims of political persecution against the businessman amid international criticism of Ankara’s crackdown on opponents.

“This trial is another brazen episode of continuing political persecution for which the European Court of Justice has condemned Turkey,” said Amnesty International’s Europe director Nils Muizniaks.

“When a State shows such disregard for its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, the Committee of the European Council of Ministers must act and initiate infringement proceedings.”

The Council of Europe, a 47-member bloc that upholds human rights, warned Turkey in September that it would resume proceedings unless it released Kavala ahead of a ministerial meeting next week.

The process could suspend Turkey’s membership or voting rights, further isolate Ankara and threaten an important link to Europe.

Ambassadors from 10 countries, including the US, Germany and France, last month called for Kavala’s immediate release in line with a 2019 European Court of Human Rights decision. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to expel the envoys before retreating.

The decisions of the European Court of Justice are binding on its members and they sought Kavala’s release during the pending trial two years ago, saying that the purpose of his imprisonment was to silence him and not supported by evidence of the crime.

Turkey said it was being held in accordance with the decisions of its independent judiciary.

Kavala did not attend Friday’s hearing at the 13th High Criminal Court in Istanbul. He had previously said that his appearance via video link from Istanbul’s Silivri prison was “meaningless” and that a fair trial was “no longer possible.”

His wife Ayse Bughra, opposition MPs and foreign diplomats were present. Riot police and water cannon vehicles were stationed outside the courthouse.

Kavala was acquitted of charges in February last year in connection with the 2013 Gezi protests, but the ruling was overturned and linked to charges related to the attempted coup.

Their lawsuit is now part of a merged case involving 51 other defendants, including fans of Besiktas Soccer Club, who were acquitted six years ago of charges related to the Gizzi protest, before the decision was also reversed.

Turkey’s fractured ties with the West partly stem from criticism of its human rights record since the failed Putin, which killed nearly 250 people, and a foreign policy that often placed it at odds with fellow NATO members.

Ankara is also facing an economic crisis that has seen the lira hit record lows over the past two months, losing 20% ​​of its value in November.

Kavala’s relationship with billionaire financier George Soros’ Open Society Foundation has grown into his case, with Erdogan referring to him in speeches as “the Soros survivor”.

The next hearing will be on January 17.


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