Over 546 purged Turkish officials move case to top rights court

Judges of the European Court of Human Rights sit in the courtroom during a hearing in Strasbourg in this file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 04 June 2019

Over 546 purged Turkish officials move case to top rights court

  • Plaintiffs are protesting their provisional detention orders

STRASBOURG: Over 500 Turkish judges and prosecutors have applied to have cases heard at Europe’s top rights court after they were caught up in the crackdown after the failed 2016 coup bid, the court said on Monday.

The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said it had notified Turkey of applications from 546 judges and prosecutors protesting their provisional detention orders.

Those who applied were suspended, detained and then arrested in pre-trial detention on charges of being members of the group of US-based Muslim scholar Fethullah Gulen.

Gulen is accused by Turkey of leading a terror group behind the failed July 15, 2016 coup that aimed to unseat President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Gulen denies the charges.

The legal professionals lodged unsuccessful appeals with the Turkish constitutional court and the criminal proceedings against them are still ongoing, the ECHR said.

The plaintiffs have based their applications in particular on article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning their right to liberty and security.

The hugely controversial crackdown that followed the coup bid has led to a vast backlog of Turkish cases at the ECHR as applicants run out of legal options in Turkey.

Turkey is a member of the Council of Europe (CoE), the pan-European rights body of which the ECHR is part.

The CoE has expressed concern in the past that the court is being swamped by Turkish cases.

The ECHR said it had informed Turkey of the 546 applications on May 17 and Ankara can now give its observations in writing. The court will then decide if the cases are admissible and give rulings in the coming months.

ECHR rulings have frequently angered Turkey, causing strains for its membership within the CoE, notably in November last year when it called on Ankara to release jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas.

Two years on, Turkish dissident remains behind bars 

Updated 21 October 2019

Two years on, Turkish dissident remains behind bars 

  • “It is not Kavala who has lost his freedom and independence, it is the Turkish judicial system,” his lawyers said in a statement.  

JEDDAH: The situation of many peaceful dissidents who are still in jail in Turkey, like Osman Kavala, who recently completed his second year in pretrial detention, is still criticized by Western countries and human rights defenders.  

The solitary confinement of Turkish philanthropist, activist and businessman Kavala is described by many as a “Kafkaesque” experience, as charges brought in the indictment against him are still without concrete evidence.  

Kavala, who was put behind bars over his alleged involvement in Gezi Park protests in summer 2013 to “overthrow the government” by funding and organizing the whole process, had his third hearing on October 8, but the court ruled that he should remain in custody. 

“It is not Kavala who has lost his freedom and independence, it is the Turkish judicial system,” his lawyers said in a statement.  

In the indictment, Kavala is accused of providing milk, fruit juice and pastries as well as gas masks to protesters.  

The fact that he was on the board of the Turkish branch of George Soros’ Open Society Foundation at that time was also a source of suspicion. But he denied that the charity had ever provided financial support for the protests.  

The next hearing for the case is set for December 24-25.  

Some of his friends shared with Arab News their thoughts and feelings about the lengthy judicial process  

“It is hard to put into words how much influence one person can have at changing historical and current perspectives,” Louis Fishman, an assistant professor at City University of New York, told Arab News. 

“Kavala is man who has dedicated his life to creating spaces within the Turkish public sphere, where narratives of Armenians, Kurds, and other silenced groups can find a place. This soft-spoken man has contributed greatly to the development of a civil society in Turkey and even after his imprisonment his work is being carried out through multiple non-profit organizations and art galleries,” he added. 

Fishman also said that the presence of Kavala was missed, but his legacy continued, and all his friends and supporters were waiting for his release and his return.  

Aysen Candas, a Turkish political scientist from Yale University, is another friend of Kavala who took part of the international campaign to raise awareness of his incarceration.

“Osman Kavala’s unlawful imprisonment, the violation of due process at every step of his detainment, bogus charges against him, the ridiculous nature of what is presented as ‘evidence,’ namely illegally tapped phone conversations irrelevant to the charges, the fact that the indictment was submitted one year after Osman was imprisoned … are all plain facts about his case,” she told Arab News. 

According to Candas: “What renders Kavala’s imprisonment politically significant is his relentless defense of the rule of law, human rights, minority protections and his advocacy of implementing the standards of constitutional democracies in Turkey. 

“He was a firm, unyielding proponent of norms of rule of law and democracy and minorities, he lent a legitimacy to the political initiatives he was a part of,” she added. 

Candas also noted that: “While the activities of Kavala’s cultural association Anadolu Kultur have been highlighted and targeted by the false accusations that are scattered all through the ridiculous indictment against him, his imprisonment is not due to cultural activities but is aiming to attack the political meaning of these cultural activities, such as peaceful coexistence, such as dialogue and public deliberation, such as equal respect.” 

Candas thinks Kavala’s imprisonment reflects the new hostage-status of constitutional democracy in Turkey; the negation of not just the democratization efforts since the 1980s, but also of the secular republic, of cosmopolitan modernization, of Turkey’s efforts to become an international, law-abiding member of UN and of all international conventions that Turkey is a part of. 

“Osman is also a secular businessman, a member of Turkey’s top business association. His family is from the Balkans and they had arrived in mainland Turkey through the population exchange with Greece, so perhaps the secular identity, of those who established the republic in 1923, is being targeted and criminalized in Osman’s person,” she said.