Rights groups call on Turkey to immediately release jailed philanthropist

International civil society groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called on Turkey to immediately release philanthropist and businessman Osman Kavala after the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that his rights had been breached.

The ECHR ruling said Kavala should be immediately freed because his right to liberty and security had been infringed during his internment. He has now passed 760 days in prison.

Kavala is accused of organising nationwide protests against Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in 2013 as part of a conspiracy to overthrow the government and the constitutional order. But the ECHR ruling said no credible facts, information or evidence supported the charges against him.

“The European Court of Human Rights’ ruling today should lead to an end to Turkey’s indefensible persecution of Osman Kavala,” said Aisling Reidy, senior legal adviser at Human Rights Watch. “The Turkish authorities should immediately release Kavala and stop their wider crackdown on rights defenders.”

International institutions, including the European Union, have expressed concerns that the AKP government is using its control over the country’s judiciary to silence critics and intimidate civil society.

In its ruling, the ECHR said the authorities had pursued an ulterior motive by imprisoning Kavala.

“Today’s judgment is not the first time the court has found that Turkey has jailed its critics, not because of offending behaviour, but in a crude attempt to try to silence them,” said Andrew Gardner, Turkey strategy and research manager at Amnesty International.

“Osman Kavala’s release needs to be the first of many steps beginning to reverse the damage caused by the massive crackdown on civil society over the last several years and to restore respect for human rights in Turkey today,” he said.