Turkey: Shocking Gezi Park trial verdict a travesty of justice

Yesterday’s aggravated life sentence, imposed following the guilty verdict against Osman Kavala, and the 18-year terms of imprisonment against other 15 defendants are a travesty of justice, said the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).

In the final hearing of a second trial in the Gezi Park case, the İstanbul 13th Heavy Penal Court handed down its verdict yesterday.  It convicted Osman Kavala, a Turkish philanthropist and human rights defender, of “attempted overthrow” of the Government and sentenced him to “aggravated life imprisonment”. Kavala was acquitted of espionage charges under which he remained in custody for two years.

The first instance court also convicted another seven defendants, including several human rights defenders, for assisting in attempting to overthrow the Government and sentenced them to terms of imprisonment of up to 18 years.

“This verdict directly contradicts the European Court of Human Rights’ judgment ordering the release of Osman Kavala”, noted Róisín Pillay, Director of the ICJ Europe and Central Asia Programme.

“A first trial had already demonstrated these accusations to be groundless. The European Court found that Osman Kavala’s right to liberty under Article 5(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated due to the lack of reasonable suspicion that he had committed an offence; since then,  no additional evidence was introduced in the second criminal trial against him. Yesterday’s  guilty verdict should be quashed on appeal and all the defendants should immediately be released.”

Turkey is currently subject to infringement proceedings before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights for the country’s failure to implement the European Court’s ruling in the Kavala case. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe began this procedure against Turkey last February, only the second time this has been done against any State in the Court’s history.

“Yesterday’s verdict blatantly defies the European human rights system”, said Pillay, “It fatally undermines any pretence of Turkey’s respect for the rule of law and its international law obligations”.


The defendants convicted yesterday were Ali Hakan Altınay, Mücella Yapıcı, Ayşe Pınar Alabora, Can Dündar, Çiğdem Mater Utku, Gökçe Yılmaz, Handan Meltem Arıkan, Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu, İnanç Emekçi, Mehmet Ali Alabora, Mine Özerden, Osman Kavala, Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman, Yiğit Aksakoğlu, Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi, Henry Jack Barkey.

The 13th Heavy Penal Court decided to try Ayşe Pınar Alabora, Henry Jack Barkey, Can Dündar, Gökçe Yılmaz, Handan Meltem Arıkan, Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu, Mehmet Ali Alabora, Yiğit Aksakoğlu and İnanç Ekmekçi separately.

The ICJ has monitored the trials together with the International Bar Association Human Rights Initiative (IBAHRI). A report for the first trial is available here.

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