After a Turkish court jailed rights activist Osman Kavala for life on April 25, The European Parliament on Thursday condemned the sentence and called on the EU and Member States to take action.

European Parliament Condemns Life Sentence For Turkish Rights Activist

European Parliament’s voting session on May 5, 2022. Photo: European Union

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on Thursday condemning a Turkish court’s decision to sentence Turkish philanthropist and human rights activist Osman Kavala to life in prison for attempting to overthrow the government by financing protests in 2013 over Istanbul’s Gezi Park.

The resolution asked for the immediate release of Kavala and others and said that the Parliament believes Kavala and others have been convicted on unjustified charges, for the purpose of silencing him as a human rights defender and of silencing other critical voices in Turkey.

“The EP in the strongest terms possible condemns the recent ruling by the Istanbul 13th Heavy Penal Court imposing an aggravated life sentence on Osman Kavala after more than four-and-a-half years of unjust, unlawful and illegitimate detention,” the resolution wrote.

As well as jailing Kavala for life on April 25, the court also sentenced Mucella Yapici, Cigdem Mater, Hakan Altınay, Mine Ozerden, Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman and Yigit Ali Ekmekci to 18 years in prison for aiding the same alleged attempt to overthrow the government.

“Turkey needs to make concrete and sustained progress in the respect of fundamental rights. As a long-standing member of the Council of Europe, it must implement the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, as legal obligations. Turkey is no exception,” EU High Representative and Vice-President Josep Borrell told the EP debate on Kavala on Thursday before the vote.

The EU’s legislative body also asked European leaders and countries to take action.

“The EP Urges the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Commission and the Member States to continue to bring up the case of Mr Kavala, and all other cases of human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, politicians and academics, among others, subjected to arbitrary detention with their Turkish interlocutors,” it said.

The EP also asked the Member States to offer emergency grants for Turkish human rights defenders and to grant political asylum to Turkish citizens in similar conditions.

It further accused Turkey’s government of deliberately wrecking the country’s EU membership bid.

“The current Turkish Government has deliberately demolished any aspirations of reopening the EU accession process in the present situation, neither open new or close chapters,” the resolution wrote.

It added that any improvement in Turkey-EU relations “should depend on a real improvement of the civil and human rights and rule of law situation in Turkey”.

A former board member of the Open Society Foundations in Turkey, Kavala had been in prison since 2017 without a trial.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, CoE, has repeatedly pushed Turkey to release Kavala and other political prisoners, giving Ankara several deadlines to comply before imposing sanctions.

However, Ankara has ignored calls from the opposition in Turkey, the CoE, the EU and international rights groups to release Kavala.

In February, the Committee of Ministers of the CoE finally started an infringement process against Turkey. This could include suspension of Turkey’s voting rights on the CoE and even Turkey losing its membership.

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