It fizzled off. The riot around ten ambassadors in Turkey last month. Erdogan threatened to expel them from the country after they published a fire letter on a sensitive case: the imprisonment of businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala.
The ambassadors were allowed to stay. But Kavala is still in jail. For four years, without conviction. Tomorrow, his case will go to court again. Chances are that he will be released this time, but nothing is certain.
The 64-year-old Kavala is the founder of Anadolu Kultur, a cultural foundation with which he tried to bring people from different populations together through art projects. Kurdish and Turkish artists, Armenian and Turkish filmmakers. In addition, he is a prominent critic of Erdogan. Before being arrested in 2017, he spoke out against the growing repression in Turkey.
The state sued him for “attempted to overthrow the government” and as a financier of the Gezi protests in 2013. When he was acquitted for this last year, two new charges were suddenly added: involvement in the failed coup in 2016 and “military and political” espionage. Even before he could be released, he was arrested again.
The European Court of Human Rights already ruled in 2019 that Osman Kavala is unfairly imprisoned, there is no evidence of the charges against him and that he should be released immediately. The ruling also states that the Kavala case is a political process, that direct political influence is exerted. The new charges were also rejected by the Court.
In Turkish opposition circles, it is called a show process and it is assumed that Erdogan personally interferes with the case.
Close friend and colleague Murat Celikkan of Kavala talks about him in this video. You can also see the Turkish artist Ate Alpar, who walked through the streets of Istanbul with a portrait of Kavala:
From the high security Silivri prison in Istanbul, Kavala is now and then heard of itself. He writes opinion papers and responds through his lawyer to developments in his case.
From his cell, Kavala answers a series of questions from deCCeit by letter. In it, he first says that he is doing well according to circumstances. “I feel good. The statements of support I receive and the call for my release from abroad give me strength. I feel better on days when I speak to my wife, and when I hear my mothers voice – who is quite old. Im alone in a cell. I read a lot, especially fiction. With that, I keep myself mentally healthy.”
About the charges against him, he writes that they are purely based on conspiracy theories. “I assume that one wants to keep the theory alive that the Gezi uprising was an external plot to overthrow the government. The only basis of that theory about me is that I sympathized with the Gezi protesters, and my relationship with George Soross Open Society Foundation.”
Erdogan previously called Kavala a “remnant of Soros”, referring to American-Hungarian businessman George Soros, who, like Kavala, supports numerous social projects. great pressure leaving Turkey.
Kavala says his imprisonment is a warning to his colleagues. “Its a message to everyone who is active in civil society. That they should not deal with issues that hinder the government.”
He responded “a little surprised” when he learned of the call from the ambassadors. “There have been similar statements before, from the Council of Europe and from the European Parliament. The fact that ambassadors do this is unusual and symbolically much more striking. But given the Presidents response, I dont think this statement contributes to my early release.”
However, he thinks that the pressure from the Council of Europe can lead to a positive development in his case. At the end of this month, the Council will decide whether criminal proceedings can be initiated against Turkey. Then the country can be deprived of voting rights or even suspended. “I think theres a chance Ill get out in the first half of next year.”
Hope for four years
On Friday, the case against Kavala continues. At each hearing, his lawyer Tolga Aytöre takes into account that he can be released. But because its impossible to predict, he doesnt want to think about it too long. “For four years, we hope every day at that moment,” he says. “Our right to a fair trial has been violated so many times. The only thing we can do is keep reiterating that Osman Kavala must be released immediately.”