EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Tuesday called for the release of Turkish businessman Osman Kavala, saying he “deeply regrets” the life sentence handed down to him for attempting to overthrow the government, Agence France-Presse reported.
Borrell’s reaction echoes similar statements by France, Germany and the United States expressing dismay at the verdict issued by an İstanbul court on Monday.
“We deeply regret this verdict,” which came less than three months after the Council of Europe launched infringement proceedings against Turkey for refusing to implement a legally-binding judgement by the European Court of Human Rights, Borrell said in a statement.
A critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Kavala was accused of financing anti-government protests in 2013.
He had spent more than four years in prison without a conviction before Monday’s court verdict.
“In December 2019, the Court ruled that Mr Kavala’s detention took place in the absence of sufficient evidence that he had committed an offence,” he added.
“It found that his arrest and pre-trial detention pursued an ulterior purpose, namely to silence him and dissuade other human rights defenders from carrying out legitimate activities.”
Borrell said Turkey was obliged to implement the court’s decisions as a member of the Council of Europe.
Ankara’s continued refusal to implement these rulings would increase “the EU’s concerns regarding the Turkish judiciary’s adherence to international and European standards”, he said.
“We call on Turkey to release Osman Kavala. In the current challenging times, protecting and upholding our common values, in particular the protection of human rights, is more important than ever,” the Spaniard said.