Turkey's Kavala says life term confirmation 'does not value law'

Turkey's Kavala says life term confirmation 'does not value law'
3 min read
30 September, 2023
Osman Kavala lost his fight to appeal the life sentence he was given earlier this year.
Turkey's top appeals court on Thursday upheld the life sentence for Kavala ( Getty)

Turkish civil society leader Osman Kavala on Friday said a decision by the top appeals court that upheld his life sentence disregarded law and human life.

A Turkish court in April sentenced the 65-year-old to life in prison for attempting to overthrow then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government during large-scale protests in 2013.

The ruling for the Paris-born philanthropist, who has been jailed since 2017, sparked protests from governments around the world, including the United States, Germany and France, and international rights advocates.

Turkey's top appeals court on Thursday upheld the life sentence for Kavala while overturning prison sentences for three other civil society leaders in the same case, who were subsequently released on probation.

Enis Berberoglu, an opposition lawmaker who has served time in prison, visited Kavala on Friday in Silivri on the outskirts of Istanbul, where many government critics are jailed.

"(Kavala) told me he saw the court decision on television last night while writing a letter," Berberoglu told AFP.

"When he was writing 'if I had to stay here longer' ... he saw the flash on TV and wrote in the letter 'I think I will stay long'", the lawmaker said.

Berberoglu said Kavala's reaction to the ruling was: "This decision is a result of an understanding that does not value law or human life".

But the lawmaker noted: "I saw him in good morale."

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 'Politically motivated' 

Kavala was one of tens of thousands of Turks who were either jailed or fired from their jobs in purges that followed a bloody coup attempt against Erdogan when he was already president in 2016.

He was first charged with funding a wave of protests in 2013, which presented one of the biggest challenges for Erdogan.

A court acquitted and released him in February 2020 -- only for the police to rearrest him before he had a chance to return home to his wife.

Another court then accused him of being involved in the failed 2016 putsch.

European officials and human rights activists have condemned the confirmation Kavala's sentence.

The decision "further increases the concerns of the European Union regarding the Turkish judiciary's adherence to international and European standards," said Peter Stano, spokesman for the EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell.

As an EU candidate nation "Turkey is expected to comply with democratic standards and practices," he added.

"Every day that Osman Kavala is imprisoned is one day too many", the German Foreign Ministry said on the X social network, formerly Twitter.

Amnesty International slammed Thursday's court verdict as "politically motivated" and "an attempt to silence independent voices."

"This appalling decision is a devastating politically-motivated blow for human rights," its campaigns director for Europe Ruth Tanner said in a statement.

"The appeal court's decision defies all logic given that the prosecuting authorities have repeatedly failed to provide any evidence to substantiate the baseless charges laid against them."

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'Empty talk' 

Ankara has flouted a succession of rulings by the European Court of Human Rights in recent years, notably concerning two anti-Erdogan figures: Kavala and Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas.

Erdogan, who again won elections in May, has reaffirmed Turkey's commitment to resume long-stalled negotiations to join the European Union but Brussels says it wants to see concrete progress on democracy and rule of law.

The European Parliament's Turkey rapporteur Nacho Sanchez Amor also slammed the ruling against Kavala.

"It's in these kind of things where we should test Turkey's real will to reactivate the EU accession process," he commented on social media.

"Good-will statements are empty talk if not accompanied by real actions. Sadly the actions keep undermining Turkey's EU prospects. This is a big step further away from the EU," he said on X.