Turkey: Osman Kavala remains detained in defiance of ECHR decision, as proceedings unravel in the “Gezi Park” trial

On Tuesday 28 January 2020, BHRC attended the latest hearing of the “Gezi Park” trial of sixteen leading civil society individuals in Turkey, including Osman Kavala and Yiğit Aksakoğlu. 

Mr Kavala remains the only defendant still in custody and has now been detained for over 26 months. His detention continues in defiance of an unequivocal decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on 10 December 2019 calling for his immediate release from custody.

In the hearing the defence made a number of applications which were refused by the court. These included: 

  • An application to withdraw the decision to hear a key witness Murat Pubac in private without the presence of defence lawyers in a hearing on 25 December 2019;
  • An application objecting to the addition of Mevlut Saldogan as a complainant in the proceedings, a police officer who has served a sentence of imprisonment for unlawfully killing a Gezi protestor;
  • An application for the judges to recuse themselves as being biased and not properly applying the law.

After the court had ruled against each of the defence applications, all but one of the defence lawyers walked out of the courtroom on mass in protest. The public were then removed from the gallery following their applauding the decision by the defence lawyers

The judges continued the hearing and requested the defendants to make statements in relation to the evidence that had been given in private by Mr Pubac. Mr Kavala and the other defendants said that they would not comment in the absence of their lawyers and given that they had not been present when the witness had given evidence.  Two Members of Parliament who objected from the observers’ benches to the continuation of the hearing in the absence of the defence lawyers were then asked to leave the court.

After a short adjournment, the court ruled that Mr Kavala’s pre-trial detention would continue, noting that the ECHR decision was yet to be “finalised”.

BHRC considers that there is no proper basis for Mr Kavala to remain in detention and it calls for him to be released immediately. In addition, it calls upon the Turkish authorities to drop what is plainly a meritless prosecution and one which threatens to further erode the application of the rule of law in that country.

Commenting, Kevin Dent QC, who attended the hearing on behalf of BHRC, said:

“Today’s events, which were rather farcical and, at times disturbing, will do little to give any confidence regarding the observance of the rule of law in Turkey. Proceedings now seem to be unravelling and are continuing in a way which appears to be contrary to both applicable Turkish law and the rule of law. Nevertheless, the case continues and the allegations are extremely serious, whilst Osman Kavala remains detained in defiance of an unequivocal judgment from the European Court of Human Rights.”

BHRC will continue to follow and monitor the trial this week alongside our partner, Article 19, and other international observers. The next hearing will be on 18 February 2020.

Full report to follow. 

Read BHRC’s interim trial report following the 24 December 2019 hearing here.