The Council of Europe on Monday renewed its call on Turkey to release Osman Kavala, a critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, imprisoned for more than four years.
The request came as the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled Turkey violated Kavala’s rights in 2020 when, already jailed for his alleged support of anti-government protests, he was released but later arrested again the same day for wanting to overthrow the government.
A Turkish court sentenced him to life in prison in April, sparking protests from governments around the world, including the United States, Germany and France, as well as NGOs such as Amnesty International .
The three-judge panel also jailed seven other defendants for 18 years each for helping to attempt to overthrow Prime Minister Erdogan’s government during large-scale protests in 2013.
Paris-born philanthropist Kavala told the court via video link from a high-security prison near Istanbul that he considered the whole process a “judicial assassination”.
In its statement on Monday, the ECHR said Turkey had failed to comply with its earlier request to release Kavala.
“We renew our call for the immediate release of Mr. Kavala,” said the Council of Europe, which administers the ECHR and has already launched rare disciplinary proceedings against Turkey for its treatment of Kavala.
Kavala was one of tens of thousands of Turks who were jailed or fired from their jobs during the purges that followed a bloody coup attempt against Erdogan when he was already president in 2016.
But the seemingly arbitrary nature of the alternating charges filed against Kavala has made him a symbol of Erdogan’s growing authoritarian streak.
Kavala was first accused of funding the 2013 wave of protests.
A court acquitted and released him in February 2020 – only for police to arrest him before he had a chance to return home to his wife.
Another court later accused him of being involved in the failed coup in 2016.
Kavala eventually found himself facing both sets of charges, which the ECHR dismissed as unproven.
“In the absence of facts, information or evidence showing that he had been involved in criminal activity,” he said, Kavala “could not reasonably be suspected of having committed the offense of attempt. overthrow of the government”.
In fact, he said, there was “no plausible reason” to suspect that Kavala had committed a criminal offence.