Dhe 13th Istanbul Criminal Court has ordered an extension of Osman Kavala’s pre-trial detention and rejected a request by defense lawyers for his release. The court thus once again ignored the request of the European Court of Human Rights to set the philanthropist and human rights activist free for lack of evidence. It resumes proceedings on February 12. Kavala has been in custody without a conviction since October 18, 2017.
On December 3, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers gave Turkey until January 19 to comply with the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. Otherwise, an infringement procedure is being prepared, which could lead to the suspension of Turkey’s membership of the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe is now expected to refer the case to the European Court of Human Rights for consideration on 2 February. After its decision, the infringement procedure can begin.
The Kavala case is straining Turkey’s relations with its western allies. In mid-October, ten Western ambassadors asked Turkey to release Kavala. After that, President Tayyip Erdogan declared them undesirables, which he retracted. The Turkish Foreign Ministry described the Council of Europe’s actions as “interference” in an ongoing process. The Turkish government again declared on Tuesday that the Turkish courts are independent and rejected criticism by human rights groups of Kavala’s long pre-trial detention.
The human rights organization Human Rights Watch described the court’s recent decision as “very disappointing”. Just last week, Human Rights Watch said Turkish President Erdogan had set back his country’s human rights record by “decades” by undermining judicial independence and stalking his critics. The German government’s human rights commissioner, Luise Amtsberg, accused Turkey of violating its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights “for years” by imprisoning Kavala.