Gezi Park defenders acquitted - Osman Kavala faces new charges

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Geneva-Paris, February 27, 2020 - The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OMCT-FIDH) denounces the new charges pressed against human rights defender Osman Kavala just hours after he was acquitted in the “Gezi Park case”, in a clear attempt by the Turkish authorities to extend his arbitrary detention.

On February 18, 2020, during the final hearing in the Gezi Park Trial, the 30th Heavy Penal Court in Istanbul acquitted nine of the human rights defenders who were being criminalised, i.e. Osman Kavala, Mücella Yapıcı, Yiğit Aksakoğlu, Çiğdem Mater Utku, Ali Hakan Altınay, Mine Özerden, Şerafettin Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman and Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi. The case of the remaining seven defenders’, who reside outside Turkey, was separated.

Before he was released from Silivri Prison, Mr. Osman Kavala was subject to a new arrest warrant from the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on charge of “attempting to overthrow the government" within the failed coup d’état attempt of July 15, 2016, and therefore kept in arbitrary detention. Istanbul 8th Criminal Peace Judgeship eventually issued a ruling for keeping him in detention for the charges in question at midnight on February 20, 2020.

As a human rights activist, businessman and also founder and chairperson of the “Anadolou Kultur” Foundation, Mr. Osman Kavala has been arbitrarily deprived of liberty since October 18, 2017 .

On December 10, 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) had ruled that in the “Gezi Case” Mr. Kavala’s detention violated Article 5 and 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights [1] , and requested his immediate release. The ECtHR decision has not been implemented to date.

The criminalisation against human rights defenders in Turkey has taken an endemic character since the coup d’état attempt in 2016, and judicial harassment is widely used to crackdown on any dissent and specifically against human rights and political activists.

The Observatory strongly condemns the arrest of Mr. Kavala under the new accusations and believes that preventing his release through pressing new accusations amounts to ill-treatment, as also stated by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights [2]. It indeed appears obvious that Mr. Osman Kavala has been personally targeted, and the trumped-up accusations against him point to a lack of independence of the judiciary in Turkey, which the ongoing judiciary reform is only bound to perpetuate.

The Observatory calls upon the Turkish authorities to immediately release Mr. Osman Kavala, drop the criminal accusations against him, and guarantee his rights and freedoms in full.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

[1] Article 5 § 1 of the ECHR implies that detention should be lawful and based on reasonable suspicion, while Article 18 proscribes the restriction of rights for ulterior purposes.

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