EU calls on Turkey to respect standards of European Convention on Human Rights

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EU spokesperson Maja Kocijancic

The European Union on Friday reacted to the arrest by a Turkish court of civil activist and businessman Osman Kavala, calling on Turkey to “respect the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, including the independence of the judiciary, pre-trial detention as well as the principle of presumption of innocence.”

Kavala, who was detained by police on Oct. 18 in Istanbul, was arrested on Wednesday on charges of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and attempting to remove the government of the Turkish Republic.

“Osman Kavala, Chairman of Anadolu Kültür, has been arrested and charged with seeking to change the constitutional order of Turkey. The public rhetoric and accusations used against Mr Kavala after his detention and prior to his arrest cast serious doubt on the respect of due process and the presumption of innocence,” EU spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said in a written statement.

“His case adds to the long list of detentions and arrests of civil society representatives, journalists, academics and others over the past weeks and months further eroding fundamental rights and freedoms, and leading to a shrinking space for civil society. Long detention and pre-trial periods have become the norm rather than the exception,” added Kocijancic.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday called arrest of Kavala “an example of the politicized and arbitrary nature of Turkey’s justice system.”

“The case against Osman Kavala is a disgraceful example of how politicized court decisions in Turkey follow a calculated smear campaign in pro-government media,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“We have seen a pattern of prosecutors producing outlandish allegations with no evidence and courts complying, demonstrating how Turkey’s justice system acts as a handmaiden to politicians.”

The ruling came days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared Kavala a criminal and the “Soros of Turkey.”

“The facts of Turkey’s Soros have been revealed. His connections have been exposed. Who are you trying to fool? The same person is behind the Taksim events [Gezi Park protests]. You can also see those who are behind financial support for some places. We will stand against those who try to hit this nation from within. We will pay them back,” Erdoğan said during his party group meeting in Parliament on Oct. 24.

Staunchly pro-Erdoğan Turkish newspapers Yeni Şafak and Güneş on Oct. 20 accused Kavala of funding terrorist organizations and betraying Turkey.

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