An İstanbul court has rejected an appeal against the imprisonment of prominent businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala, who has been behind bars on a series of shifting charges since 2017, despite a recent warning by the Council of Europe, local media reported on Friday.
Although Kavala’s lawyers took the case to a higher court after the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court on Nov. 26 extended his imprisonment, the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court – the appeals court – on Friday also rejected the motion for the philanthropist’s release.
The move came after the CoE on Dec. 3 ruled to notify Turkey of its intention to launch infringement proceedings against the country for refusing to free Kavala, triggering a procedure used only once before in the organization’s history.
Turkey has a deadline to respond by Jan. 19, 2022, after which the committee would refer the case back to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) at its next meeting on Feb. 2.
If the court finds a violation, the council’s Committee of Ministers can begin considering which measures should be taken. Turkey’s membership or voting rights at the CoE could be suspended at the end of the proceedings.
The 64-year-old civil society leader and businessman, who has been kept in jail without conviction for over four years, is accused of financing 2013 anti-government protests and playing a role in a 2016 coup attempt. If convicted, he could be jailed for life without the possibility of parole.
Turkey refuses to release Kavala despite a binding judgment of the ECtHR in December 2019 finding that his detention for allegedly directing and financing the Gezi Park protests of 2013 and for alleged involvement in the failed coup of July 2016 was in pursuance of an “ulterior motive,” that of silencing him as a human rights defender.
The philanthropist has become a symbol to his supporters of the sweeping crackdown President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan unleashed after the failed coup.
The next hearing in Kavala’s case in İstanbul is scheduled for Jan. 17.