Europe’s human rights court calls for release of Turkish businessman
Osman Kavala is free!

Freedom for Osman Kavala!

KulturForum Türkei-Deutschland Press Release

On January 28th, the 30th Grand Criminal Court in Istanbul decided that the Turkish publisher and patron of the arts Osman Kavala should remain in custody despite already having been detained for more than two years. Thus the Turkish authorities continue to ignore the order issued in December by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that he be immediately released.

Amnesty International in Germany, the Academy of Arts, the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, the German Journalists’ Union dju in ver.di, the Turkish.German Forum of Culture, the PEN Germany and Reporters without Borders strongly condemn this official stance and demand the immediate release of Osman Kavala. The German Federal Government should take all possible steps to ensure that Osman Kavala and all other cultural and media professionals in Turkey can pursue their work without obstruction or fear of reprisals.

The court met in the grounds of the high-security prison in Silivri, where the 62-year-old founder of the "Anadolu Cultural Foundation" has been held since November 1, 2017. The public prosecutor's office accuses Kavala and 15 other defendants in the so-called "Gezi trial" of an attempted coup related to the 2013 Gezi protests, which were critical of the government. The 15 co-defendants are academics, architects and actors who have since been released on bail. Among them is the journalist Can Dündar, who is currently living in Germany. The trial has been adjourned until 18 February 2020.

Kavala is accused of having financed the Gezi protests with foreign assistance. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment. In its decision on 10 December, the European Court of Human Rights stated that no evidence against him had been presented, and that the detention of Kavala was intended to intimidate him.



The Alliance of Civil Society Organizations in Germany has also called on Chancellor Angela Merkel to take up the issue directly with President Erdoğan and to press for the immediate and unconditional release of Osman Kavala in accordance with the ECHR ruling. The Alliance is also calling for the release of the writer Ahmet Altan and the politician and author Selahattin Demirtaş, who remain in custody although in their cases, too, well-known international lawyers’ associations are demanding that they be freed. The German Federal Government should work at all levels for the release of all political prisoners and press for respect for the rule of law and human rights in Turkey.

Osman Kavala has dedicated his life to promoting civil society and culture in Turkey. Over the past 30 years, he has supported numerous independent human rights organizations and co-founded a number of civil society organizations and publishing houses, including the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly (now called the Citizens' Assembly) for the promotion of human rights, Anadolu Kültür - one of the country's largest cultural foundations for the promotion of cultural understanding in Turkey - and the İletişim publishing house, which publishes literature and non-fiction that often deals with taboo subjects in Turkish society.

The case of Kavala and his co-defendants is just one example of the Turkish government's crackdown on its critics. Since the failed coup attempt in July 2016, some 1,500 organizations and foundations have been closed. Peaceful protests are suppressed, and anyone who criticizes the government must expect arrest. Currently, more than 130 media workers are in prison. Since July 2016, almost 130,000 public service employees have been dismissed for alleged "connections with terrorist organizations".

For the german version of the content please click here.

Cologne, January 28, 2020

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