The Open Society Foundations has issued a statement deploring Turkey's continued detention of philanthropist and human rights activist Osman Kavala in defiance of a December 10 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights calling for his release.
A former advisory member of the board of OSF's local foundation in Turkey, Kavala has been jailed since November 2017 on charges that he financed and directed mass protests against the government in 2013 that began in Istanbul's Gezi Park, as well as for having links to the alleged organizers of a failed coup attempt against the government of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016. Since June, Kavala and fifteen other Turkish civil society leaders — including Gökçe Tüylüoğlu and Hakan Altinay, former chairs of OSF's Turkey foundation, and Yiğit Aksakoğlu, country head of the Bernard van Leer Foundation, a leading global funder of early childhood education and development projects — have been defending themselves against charges the 2013 mass protests were orchestrated as part of an international plot against Turkey. The indictment, which seeks life sentences for the accused, was approved despite several rulings by Turkey's Constitutional Court affirming the legality of the protests.
Following the European Court of Human Rights' ruling, Kavala requested his release at a December 24 court hearing in Istanbul. The court ruled, however, that Kavala be kept in pretrial detention, saying it needed to wait for the Justice Ministry to confirm the European court's decision, and adjourned the trial until January 28.
In 2018, OSF closed its offices in Turkey after Altinay, who is a Brookings Institution senior fellow, was detained for allegedly supporting Kavala, and Erdogan accused OSF founder George Soros of attempting to destabilize the country.
"By failing to release Osman as required by the European Court, Turkey is confirming what we always feared — that this is a sham trial, based on a fictional indictment, and motivated by politics not justice," said OSF president Patrick Gaspard. "The European Court reviewed the indictment and found no facts to support the charges. It rightly concluded that the real objective here is to silence and intimidate Kavala and other human rights defenders in Turkey."
(Photo credit: osmankavala.org)