A Turkish court on Thursday 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 Council of Europe decision to start infringement proceedings against Turkey due to Kavala’s continued imprisonment, Turkish media outlets reported.
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.
The İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court, however, ruled to keep Kavala in jail on the grounds that there was no change in his legal situation. The court made its decision with a majority of votes.
Turkey must respond by Jan. 19, 2022, after which the committee will 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 in 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 of any crime for more than 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.