Jailed businessman Kavala awarded human rights prize in Germany

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The Society of Friends and Supporters of the Tonhalle has awarded the Tonhalle Human Rights Prize for 2022 to prominent businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala, who has been imprisoned in Turkey since 2017, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported on Friday, citing an announcement made at a concert hall in Düsseldorf.

Every year the award, founded in 2016 by Adam Fischer, chief conductor of the Düsseldorf Symphony, is given to an association or a person who has made significant accomplishments in the field of human rights and freedoms.

According to DW, Fischer said Kavala’s imprisonment was a shocking example of massive political interference with the judiciary.

“Obviously, a person who stands up for human and civil rights is being punished and silenced,” he added.

The award ceremony will be held in the concert hall on March 19. As Kavala remains behind bars, German-Turkish politician and Germany’s Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir will accept it on Kavala’s behalf.

Previous winners of the award include Doctors Without Borders (RSF) and Fridays for Future.

Earlier this month an İstanbul court decided once again to keep Kavala, who has been in prison on a series of shifting charges since 2017, behind bars with a majority of votes despite a recent Council of Europe (CoE) decision to start infringement proceedings against Turkey due to the philanthropist’s continued imprisonment.

The CoE’s Committee of Ministers, the executive organ of the CoE, on Feb. 1 decided to take action against Turkey for failing to release Kavala despite a European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruling and ordered that the case be submitted to the ECtHR for review, officially beginning an infringement procedure against Turkey.

The 64-year-old civil society leader, 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.

In October 2021 the ambassadors of 10 countries, including the US, Germany and France, demanded Kavala’s immediate release in line with the 2019 ECtHR ruling. President Erdoğan threatened to expel the envoys before backing down.

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