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(18 February 2020): On 18 February 2020, a court in Istanbul acquitted
Osman Kavala and eight of his co-defendants of all charges. The case
against the seven co-defendants who
are currently abroad, including writers Can Dundar and Meltem Arikan,
will continue separately.
Daniel Gorman, Director of English PEN, said:
We warmly welcome the news that Osman Kavala is to be freed and that all Gezi trial co-defendants present at today’s court hearing have been acquitted. Kavala should never have been imprisoned and none of them should ever have been subjected to these trumped-up charges. We will continue to call for the acquittal of their seven co-defendants and the many others still needlessly on trial in Turkey. In the meantime, our huge congraulations and thanks go to all who campaigned and worked so hard for this moment.
English PEN joins PEN International in urging the Turkish authorities to acquit publisher, philanthropist and civil society leader Osman Kavala and his 15 co-defendants of all charges, ahead of an expected verdict when their trial resumes on 18 February 2020 in Istanbul. We also call on the authorities to abide by the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling and immediately release Kavala from detention.
Osman Kavala stands accused alongside 15 other civil society figures and arts practitioners on trumped-up charges of ‘attempting to overthrow the government’ for their alleged role in the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul in 2013. If convicted, Kavala and two of his co-accused face aggravated life sentences; six others face 15-20 years in prison.
Kavala remains the only one behind bars, despite several applications to end his lengthy detention, and a December 2019 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights ordering his immediate release. The court found that Kavala’s detention ‘pursued an ulterior purpose…namely that of reducing [him] to silence’.
Daniel Gorman, Director of English PEN, said:
English PEN calls on the Turkish authorities to comply with the European Court of Human Rights ruling from December 2019 and immediately release Osman Kavala. We are deeply concerned that this unjustified imprisonment has aimed to silence him and fellow civil society activists in Turkey. We further call on the Turkish Government to drop all charges against him and his co-defendants in the ‘Gezi Park’ trial.
Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, said:
The ruling of the European Court of Human Rights is explicit and could not be clearer. The Turkish authorities have kept Osman Kavala behind bars for more than two years with the sole intent and purpose of silencing him. As a member state of the Council of Europe, Turkey must abide by and respect its international obligations and it must fully implement judgments of the Court.
Ahead of tomorrow’s hearing, PEN International once again calls on the Turkish authorities to drop all charges against Kavala and his co-defendants immediately, and to release him unconditionally. That he has been jailed is a travesty; he should not have to spend another minute behind bars.’
Kavala, 62, has dedicated his life to promoting open dialogue and
peace, human rights and democratic values in Turkey. He helped establish
a number of civil society organisations, including Anadolu Kültür
(Anatolian Culture), a cultural association that aims to foster a
celebration of diversity through cultural and artistic exchange. He also
helped found İletişim Publishing in 1983, which has since become one of
Turkey’s largest publishing houses.
Kavala was first detained on
18 October 2017 at Istanbul’s Atatürk airport upon returning from the
city of Gaziantep, south eastern Turkey. On 1 November 2017, a Court in
Istanbul ruled that he be remanded in Silivri Prison, where he has been
detained ever since. He was formally charged 16 months after his arrest.
A 657-page long indictment accuses him and 15 co-defendants of being responsible for crimes allegedly committed by protestors across Turkey during the Gezi Park protests
and reframes the overwhelmingly peaceful protests as a conspiracy to
overthrow the government. The first hearing in the case took place on 24
June 2019 in Istanbul; the Court kept ruling for Kavala’s continued
detention in subsequent hearings.
The defendants in the case, in alphabetical order of surnames, are: Yiğit Aksakoğlu (civil society professional who was held in pre-trial detention for 21 days), Memet Ali Alabora (director, actor), Hakan Altınay (chair of Open Society Foundation), Meltem Arıkan (novelist, playwright), Can Atalay (lawyer and human rights defender), Can Dündar (journalist, author), İnanç Ekmekci (civil society professional); Yiğit Ekmekçi (Chair of Anadolu Kültür), Hikmet Germiyanoğlu (NGO consultant), Tayfun Kahraman (urban planner), Osman Kavala, Çiğdem Mater (film producer), Ayşe Pınar Alabora (actress), Mine Özerden (civil society and arts project coordinator), Mücella Yapıcı (architect and engineer) and Gökçe Yılmaz (Open Society Foundation’s Turkey representative).
On 6 February 2020, prosecutors requested
aggravated life sentences against Osman Kavala, Mücella Yapıcı and
Yiğit Aksakoğlu – the most severe sentence under Turkish law. It
consists of 30 years’ imprisonment, after which prisoners are eligible
for parole on condition of good behaviour. Those convicted of aggravated
life sentences also face harsher detention conditions, including
solitary confinement for up to 23 hours per day.
Hakan Altınay, Mine Özerden, Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman and Yiğit
Ekmekçi are facing between 15 and 20 years in prison.
requested that the case against Ayşe Pınar Alabora, Can Dündar, Gökçe
Yılmaz, Meltem Arıkan, Hikmet Germiyanoğlu, Memet Ali Alabora and İnanç
Ekmekçi – who are currently abroad – continue separately.