Press release

Turkey: Free Osman Kavala

The European Court of Human Rights backs its ruling on the politically-motivated imprisonment of Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala.

In response to the ruling of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of political prisoner Osman Kavala, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“With the court’s decision to reject the Turkish government’s request for referral of Kavala’s case, the European Court’s ruling from last December establishing Kavala’s imprisonment as politically motivated is now final,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Freedom House’s Europe and Eurasia programs. “Osman Kavala has spent more than 900 days in jail, despite never being convicted of a crime. Turkey should uphold its human rights obligations and release him immediately.”


On May 12, 2020, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rejected the request by Turkey for a referral of its ruling on arrested philanthropist Osman Kavala to the Grand Chamber, effectively making an earlier ECtHR conclusion that Kavala had been arrested for politically motivated reasons final.

Kavala was arrested November 1, 2017, on charges of attempting to overthrow the government through his alleged participation in the 2013 nationwide Gezi Park protests. On December 10, 2019, the ECtHR ruled that Kavala was arrested without any reasonable suspicion and the Constitutional Court did not examine his application within a reasonable period, and stated that he should be released from prison immediately. On February 18, 2020, a Turkish court acquitted nine defendants including Kavala of charges related to the Gezi Park protests. However, Kavala was rearrested later that day on separate charges of espionage related to the 2016 coup, effectively circumventing the ECtHR’s ruling to release Kavala immediately. He remains behind bars to this day.

Turkey is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020, and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2019.