Istanbul (AFP), February 21 – A Turkish court on Monday ordered activist Osman Kavala to remain in jail, amid renewed calls for his release in the high-profile case that has drawn numerous reprimands.
The 64-year-old philanthropist has been held without conviction since October 2017, accused of funding anti-government protests in 2013 and playing a role in a plot against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) demanded Kavala’s release, which Turkey refused to comply with.
This month, the Council of Europe (COE) launched disciplinary action following Turkey’s refusal to release him.
A three-judge panel on Monday refused to release Kavala and set the next hearing for March 21.
Kavala did not appear in court and his lawyers questioned the court’s impartiality.
“Kavala is not being tried in this court, but in meetings of political parties,” defense lawyer Tolga Aytore told the court.
Western diplomats, including from France and Germany, attended the hearing on Monday, according to an AFP reporter.
The COE ruled this month that Turkey had failed to comply with a 2019 ECHR ruling to release Kavala.
Under the rules of the Strasbourg-based COE, the case has been referred to the ECHR, which will review whether Turkey has complied with its 2019 ruling.
Turkey has been a member of the Council of Europe since 1950 and a party to the European Convention on Human Rights.
He denounced the decision of the Council of Europe as an “interference” in national legal proceedings.
The COE’s verdict could prompt the committee of ministers to take action against Ankara, including suspending Turkey’s voting rights or even expelling it from the body.
Ahead of Monday’s hearing, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey criticized Ankara for its apparent refusal to comply with the ruling.
“It’s not easy to understand what the Turkish authorities’ justification is, simply not to comply with the court ruling,” Nacho Sanchez Amor told AFP.
“It’s not about any interference from abroad, it’s about the Turkish constitution, the European Court of Human Rights is part of the Turkish judicial system.”
He added that Turkey’s refusal to comply with the court ruling “would damage the country’s image”.
Erdogan has repeatedly accused Kavala of being an agent of George Soros, a billionaire financier and pro-democracy activist.
Kavala’s supporters see his fate as a symbol of the purges Erdogan unleashed after the attempted coup, and his case has become a growing irritant to Turkey’s complex ties to the West.
Critics of the government say Turkey’s standoff with the Council of Europe underscores the deep erosion of human rights under Erdogan’s two-decade rule.