The accusations brought against me, which constitute the grounds for my pre-trial detention...are based on a number of factually unfounded allegations against logic as well as presumptions that are not corroborated by evidence. Factual events have been distorted and a fantastic fiction has been constructed.
From the defence statement of Osman Kavala dated 24 June 2019.
Publisher, civil and cultural rights activist, and philanthropist Osman Kavala was arrested on 18 October 2017, and has been held in pre-trial detention at Silivri Prison on the outskirts of Istanbul since November 2017.
He was first charged, 16 months after his arrest, for being responsible for crimes allegedly committed by protesters across Turkey during the 2013 Gezi Park protests.
In December 2019, the European Court of Human Rights ruled for Osman Kavala’s immediate release, as it found his detention ‘pursued an ulterior purpose…namely that of reducing [him] to silence’. The Turkish authorities continue to ignore the binding judgment of the Court and the decisions from the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers.
On 18 February 2020, he was acquitted of charges related to Gezi Park protests. However, instead of being released, he was sent back to Silivri Prison, having been informed that a court had ordered his detention again due to another investigation.
He has been charged with attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and espionage in this separate case.
In 2021, Kavala’s case on coup and espionage charges has been merged with the Gezi Park retrial, following the overturn of the acquittal decisions for Gezi Park defendants.
Despite numerous calls for Osman Kavala’s immediate release by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, and the initiation of infringement proceedings against Turkey, he has not been released.
On 25 April 2022, the verdict was announced in the Gezi Park retrial, convicting Osman Kavala for attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, a crime he has been acquitted for in 2020. He has been sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment.
Osman Kavala’s conviction and detention for four and a half years is emblematic of the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of dissidents in Turkey, particularly since the coup attempt of July 2016 and the breakdown of the rule of law that followed.
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Osman Kavala has dedicated his life to promoting open dialogue, human rights, and democratic values in Turkey. He helped to establish a number of civil society organisations, including Anadolu Kültür (Anatolian Culture), which aims to foster a celebration of diversity through cultural and artistic exchange. He also co-founded İletişim Publishing in 1983, which has since become one of Turkey’s largest publishing houses.
Kavala was first arrested on 18 October 2017 and formally charged 16 months after his arrest. A 657-page long indictment accused him and 15 co-defendants of being responsible for crimes allegedly committed by protesters across Turkey during the Gezi Park protests and reframed the overwhelmingly peaceful protests as a conspiracy to overthrow the government.
The trial started on 24 June 2019 and ended on 18 February 2020 with Kavala’s acquittal. However, celebrations were short-lived: Kavala was returned to prison, following a court order to detain him again due to another investigation.
On 8 October 2020, a new indictment against Kavala was announced, that relates to ‘attempts to abolish, replace or prevent the implementation of, through force and violence, the constitutional order of the Republic of Turkey’ which carries an aggravated life sentence. He has been additionally charged with ‘espionage’, carrying a maximum 20-year sentence. The indictment refers to his alleged involvement in the coup attempt of 2016.
On 5 February 2021, shortly after the acquittals of Gezi trial defendants’ was overturned, Kavala’s case on coup and espionage charges was merged with the Gezi Park retrial.
On 25 April 2022, Osman Kavala has been convicted for attempting to overthrow the government and sentenced to aggravated life in prison, whereas his other 7 co-defendants have also been sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Photo credit: Rupen Janbazian, 2015, Osman Kavala at the Armenian Genocide centennial commemoration near Taksim Square, Istanbul
Last updated on 11 May 2022.