On 15 December, the Turkish constitutional court will examine the complaint by the Turkish businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala regarding his ongoing detention. On 18 December, the first hearing will be held in connection with the new investigations that were initiated against Kavala. Also, on 24 December, the next day of court proceedings is scheduled in what has become known as the Özgür Gündem main trial against the renowned human rights lawyer Eren Keskin and her three co-defendants.
Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance at the Federal Foreign Office Bärbel Kofler issued the following statement today (14 December) on the Turkish judiciary’s upcoming proceedings against Osman Kavala as well as Eren Keskin and her co-defendants:
The Turkish constitutional court’s examination of Osman Kavala’s complaint is a long-overdue step. I would like to recall that, already more than one year ago, the European Court of Human Rights found his ongoing detention to be unjustified. So far, Turkey has not been able to dispel the strong suspicion that Kavala’s ongoing detention and the initiation of a new investigation represent a continued violation of the legally binding judgement of the European Court of Human Rights dated 10 December 2019. I therefore call on the Turkish judiciary to fully honour and implement the ECHR judgement.
Furthermore, I reiterate my appeal to the Turkish judiciary to grant Eren Keskin and her co-defendants a fair trial in accordance with the rule of law – in keeping with Turkey’s international obligations.
Osman Kavala, director of the Turkish cultural foundation Anadolu Kültür, has been in prison since 18 October 2017. On 10 December 2019, the European Court of Human Rights determined that Osman Kavala’s prolonged pre-trial detention is in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and called for his immediate release. This decision came into force on 11 May 2020 because Turkey’s request to refer the matter to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights once again was rejected. Osman Kavala was acquitted by an Istanbul court on 18 February 2020, but was immediately re‑arrested on other charges. The indictment that was accepted on 9 October 2020 contains no new evidence.
Human rights lawyer Eren Keskin, founding member and long-serving president of the Human Rights Association in Turkey (IHD), served as editor-in-chief of the now banned Özgür Gündem newspaper from 2013 to 2016. She assumed this role as a symbolic gesture and to show solidarity with the left-wing newspaper dedicated to Kurdish issues, on which pressure was being exerted. The charges in the Özgür Gündem main trial are membership of a terrorist organisation, for which the sentence is up to 15 years, as well as spreading terrorist propaganda and disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the Turkish state. Her remaining co-defendants are Zana Bilir Kaya, İnan Kızılkaya and Kemal Sancılı. Filiz Koçali, Aslı Erdoğan, Necmiye Alpay and Bilge Aykut have since been acquitted.