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.
On 8 October 2020, following the acceptance of a new indictment, it was announced that Kavala would face a new trial on charges of threats to ‘constitutional order’ which carry a life sentence. He faces an additional charge of ‘espionage’, punishable with up to 20 years in prison.’ He remains in pre-trial detention.
Osman Kavala’s detention for more than three 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 at the Istanbul 30th High Criminal Court.
Having held only one hearing, this court also requested the case be merged with another Gezi-related case, known as Çarşı, at the 13th High Criminal Court. Following the temporary appointment of the chief judge of the 30th High Criminal Court to the 13th High Criminal Court during judicial recess, the judge signed off the request he himself had made.
The next hearing of this merged case will take place on 8 October 2021.
Photo credit: Rupen Janbazian, 2015, Osman Kavala at the Armenian Genocide centennial commemoration near Taksim Square, Istanbul
Last updated on 20 September 2021.