Turkish Civil Rights Activist Sentenced to Life for 2013 Protest – The Organization for World Peace
Turkish philanthropist and civil rights activist Osman Kavala has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He was found guilty of attempting to overthrow the government amid mass protests against the government in 2013. Seven other defendants were convicted in connection with those protests.
The Council of Europe has launched infringement procedures against Turkey. These procedures are due to the fact that Turkey refused to comply with the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, which requested the release of Kavala on the grounds that his rights have been violated.
Human rights groups have responded that Kavala’s prosecution is politically motivated. Kavala supporters and the other defendants immediately began protesting the verdicts. Ozgur Ozel, an opposition lawmaker who has previously questioned the independence of Turkey’s courts, accused the court of adhering to the wishes of Erdogan, the current president. He told reporters: “Justice has not prevailed here today – the will of the person running this country has been carried out.”
Kavala said ‘the aggravated life sentence demanded of me is murder that cannot be explained on legal grounds’ and ‘the fact that I have spent 4.5 years of my life in prison is a loss irreparable for me. My only consolation is the possibility that my experience contributes to a better understanding of the serious problems of justice.
Kavala’s detention has spurred diplomatic tensions between Turkey and Western nations, particularly the United States, France and Germany – all of which have called for his release. Turkey is jeopardizing its diplomatic relations with Western nations by silencing its own citizens and eradicating any spark of dissent.
In May 2013, activists staged a sit-in in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. They protested against government plans to demolish the park’s green space. The indictment made Kavala an organizer and financier of these nationwide protests against Erdogan’s government, which were seen as the leader’s first real challenge to power. This protest turned into a national movement against Erdogan’s authoritarian style of government.
Turkey continues to harshly repress journalists, civil society and activists. The country is highly ranked for having a high number of imprisoned journalists. Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code makes it illegal to “insult the President of Turkey” and is punishable by up to four years in prison, resulting in 12,881 convictions for 2014 to 2021. These provisions are actively used to silence any criticism. and dissent. The Turkish people cannot criticize President Erdogan without fear of imprisonment.
The international community is constantly concerned about threats to freedom of expression and the rule of law in Turkey, as evidenced by Kavala’s life sentence and provisions such as Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code.