An Istanbul court sentenced Turkish civil rights activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala to life in prison for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government.
Kavala was first arrested in 2017 on charges related to the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Istanbul. The demonstrations grew into a nationwide year-long movement against then-Prime Minister Recep Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule.
A court later acquitted Kavala of the Gezi Park charges and ordered Kavala released. He was immediately re-arrested on charges of taking part in a 2016 coup attempt against President Erdogan, which resulted in the death of at least 250 people and the eventual detention of over 110,000 people, including civil servants, teachers, activists and journalists.
In addition to Kavala, the Turkish court sentenced seven other defendants to 18-year prison sentences for aiding the attempted overthrow the Erdogan government. Among them was 71-year-old architect Mucella Yapici, Istanbul Municipality urban planner Tayfun Kahraman and documentary filmmaker Cigdem Mater.
The United States is deeply troubled and disappointed by the court’s decision to convict Osman Kavala, among others. “His unjust conviction is inconsistent with respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price in a statement. “We again call on Turkey to release Osman Kavala, in keeping with European Court of Human Rights rulings, as well as to free all others arbitrarily incarcerated.”
The United States remains gravely concerned by the continued judicial harassment of civil society, media, political and business leaders in Turkey, including through prolonged pretrial detention, overly broad claims of support for terrorism, and criminal insult cases.
“The people of Turkey deserve to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms without fear of retribution,” declared Spokesperson Price. “The right to exercise freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association is enshrined in Turkey’s constitution and its international law obligations and [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] commitments. We urge the government to cease politically motivated prosecutions and to respect the rights and freedoms of all Turkish citizens.”