19 free speech organizations issue joint statement after latest hearing in Gezi trial, condemn decision against Kavala’s release
A group of freedom of expression and media freedom organizations have issued a joint statement, condemning a court decision on 8 October 2019 to keep businessman and civil society figure Osman Kavala behind bars in the Gezi Park trial.
The 19 signatories, including Article 19, P24, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and PEN International, have called for all charges against Kavala and 15 other co-defendants to be dropped, saying “the decision against Kavala’s release and the very continuation of this trial contravenes international human rights standards and is a clear demonstration of the lack of a functioning judicial system in Turkey.”
The hearing on 8 October was the third in the ongoing trial of Kavala and 15 other defendants, including civil society figures, human rights defenders, journalists and artists, for “attempting to overthrow the government” over their alleged involvement in the Gezi Park protests of 2013. Kavala has been in pre-trial detention for nearly two years now and remains the only defendant in prison in the case. A second defendant imprisoned in the case, civil society professional Yiğit Aksakoğlu, was released at the first court hearing in the case held in June.
Full text of the joint statement is as follows:
We, the undersigned freedom of expression and media freedom organisations, strongly condemn the court’s interim decision on the Gezi Park trial to continue the detention of civil society leading figure Osman Kavala at the end of the third hearing of the case, on 8 October 2019.
The judicial panel of the 30th High Criminal Court sitting at Silivri High Security Facility in Istanbul upheld the prosecutor’s request for the continuing detention of Kavala in Silivri. The next hearing was set for 24-25 December, 2019. We believe that the decision against Kavala’s release and the very continuation of this trial contravenes international human rights standards and is a clear demonstration of the lack of a functioning judicial system in Turkey.
We call for the case against all 16 defendants to be dropped and for Kavala and Aksakoğlu to be compensated for the time they have spent in prison.
Doubts over the independence of the court panel was casted by many, including lawyer Can Atalay, defendant in this case. While giving oral evidence at court in his defense, Atalay commented that the changes in the judicial panel made by the Council of Judges and Prosecutors are indications of the lack of impartiality of the judiciary. As such, he argued that it was in contravention of Articles 36 (right to a Fair Trial) and 37 (right to a Natural Judge) of the Turkish Constitution, and in violation of the right to a fair trial as enshrined in Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Kjersti Løken Stavrum, President of Norwegian PEN said, “The lack of independence of the judicial panel has been proved beyond doubt today. In a case where there is neither evidence or cause to detain the defendant Kavala in prison for one more day, the decision was given for his continued detention. By the time of the next hearing in December, Kavala will have spent over two years in prison for no tangible legal reason. We call for the entire case to be dropped and for this surreal and illegal process to be brought to a close.”
“A decision on Kavala’s case remains pending before the European Court of Human Rights. Today’s proceedings underscore the disintegration of the rule of law and domestic remedy in Turkey, as the defendant – who has already spent over 700 days in detention – is ordered to remain in pre-trial detention– on completely baseless charges. We urge the European Court of Human Rights to speedily rule in this case,” said Sarah Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia for ARTICLE 19.
We urge the Turkish Ministry of Justice to put an end to such practices where punishment is meted out ahead of possible conviction and to commit to the abolition of extended pretrial detention, as the Government outlined in the recent Judicial Reform Strategy, by immediately freeing Kavala.
We also call upon all diplomatic missions and all other international observers to attend the next hearing on 24-25 December 2019 to records the proceedings and show their continuing support for the defendants.
Civic Space Studies Association
ECPMF (European Centre for Press and Media Freedom)
EFJ (European Federation of Journalists)
GEN Global Editors Network
IFJ International Federation of Journalists
OBCT (Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa)
P24 (Punto 24)
SEEMO (South East Europe Media Organisation)
Wales PEN Cymru