The United States on Wednesday called on Turkey to immediately release philanthropist and human rights activist Osman Kavala, who has been detained for more than three years without conviction.
“The specious charges against Kavala, his ongoing detention, and the continuing delays in the conclusion of his trial, including through the merger of cases against him, undermine respect for the rule of law and democracy,” the U.S. State Department said.
Kavala was acquitted a year ago of charges related to 2013 anti-government protests, but was immediately rearrested on charges relating to a failed 2016 coup. An appeals court subsequently overturned his acquittal on the protest charges.
A Turkish court ruled on Friday to combine the two outstanding cases and rejected Kavala’s request to be released.
Kavala was accused by Turkey of collaborating with Henri Barkey, a prominent U.S.-based Turkey scholar, and both men were charged with attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.
An indictment alleged that Barkey had links to the network of U.S.-based Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, which Ankara says had orchestrated the coup attempt. Gulen denies involvement and Barkey has said the charges are a “complete fabrication”.
“We also note with concern U.S. citizen Dr. Henri Barkey’s inclusion in these unwarranted court proceedings. We believe the charges against Dr. Barkey to be baseless”, the State Department said on Wednesday.
The State Department urged Turkey to abide by a European Court of Human Rights ruling in late 2019 that Kavala be released.