Name: Osman Kavala
Occupation: Publisher, activist for civil and cultural rights
Situation: Pre-trial detention. Facing life sentence.
Read Solidarity Letter From Andrey Kurkov To Osman Kavala
Osman Kavala is a publisher, civil and cultural rights activist and philanthropist working toward peace, human rights, and democracy in Turkey. First detained on 18 October 2017, Kavala has been held ever since at Silivri Prison on the outskirts of Istanbul. He was first charged for being responsible for crimes allegedly committed by protestors across Turkey during the 2013 Gezi Park protests. Then, on 18 February 2020, he was acquitted of those charges only to be told hours later that a new investigation had been opened against him and he was returned to prison. On 8 October 2020, it was announced that he would face a new trial on charges of threats to ‘constitutional order’ that carries a life sentence, with an additional 20-year sentence for ‘espionage’. He remains in pre-trial detention.
PEN International considers the charges against Osman Kavala to be a direct violation of his right to freedom of expression, motivated by his promotion of civil and political rights. It calls that the charges against him be dropped and that he be immediately released.
- Send an appeal to the Turkish authorities
- Tell others: share Osman Kavala’s case and his work
- Give to our Day of Imprisoned Writer appeal
- Read solidarity letter from Andrey Kurkov to Osman Kavala
Ask the authorities to:
- Halt judicial proceedings against Osman Kavala, drop the charges against him and release him immediately.
Explain that you are:
- Deeply concerned that Osman Kavala remains in detention for more than three years on charges that are aimed at penalising him for his support for democracy and civil rights;
- Also concerned that the charges and lengthy detention are designed to deter others from practicing the legitimate right to peacefully challenge and advocate for change;
Drop the charges against Osman Kavala and release him now. #ImprisonedWriter #FreeOsmanKavala @abdulhamitgul
Send appeals to:
Minister of Justice of the Republic of Turkey
Mr Abdülhamit Gül (Salutation: Dear Minister)
06659 Ankara, Turkey
Fax: +90 312 419 33 70
Send copies to the Embassy of Turkey in your country: http://www.mfa.gov.tr/turkish-representations.en.mfa
We encourage PEN members to continue to:
- Publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting his case;
- Raise Osman Kavala’s case with cultural institutions and publications specialising in culture and the arts;
- Share information about Osman Kavala and your campaigning activities via social media; please use #Imprisoned Writer and #FreeOsmanKavala;
- Organise public events, press conferences and demonstrations.
Please let us know about your activities and actions. This helps us monitor the impact of our campaigning.
On Day of the #ImprisonedWriter join @PEN_Int and call for release of Turkish publisher facing life in jail #FreeOsmanKavala [insert link]
Imprisoned writers rely on PEN to advocate for their freedom and to defy those who want to silence them. From practical support for writers seeking asylum or in exile, to using our platforms to share their words, to putting pressure on the powerful – this work is only possible with your support.
Read solidarity letter from Andrey Kurkov to Osman Kavala
You know that this summer 1000 pebbles were laid out on Parliament Hill, overlooking London. This was done to mark 1000 days that you spent in Silivri prison, having been arrested on the 1st of November 2017. You were acquitted by local court and the European Court of Human Rights ruled that your detention was unlawful. Then new accusations were brought against you, accusations which reminded me of Stalin's terror of 1930s – you were accused of espionage, a charge that indicates that the authorities want to keep you locked up for life! I cannot explain myself why the Turkish Authorities are so afraid of you? Is being an active member of civil society a crime? Is it a crime to be a co-founder of publishing house that gave Turkish readers access to books by many world class writers, such as Nabokov, Joice, Faulkner? In fact, my first and only book in Turkish was also published by Iletisim Publishers.
And now you are still in Silivri Hight Security prison – definitely the most modern and the biggest prison in Turkey and probably in Europe too. I have read that this prison is a marvel of the Turkish penitentiary system, it can house 11 000 inmates and in fact, officially, it is called a prison campus which might make one think of academia and higher learning. Apparently, you are 5 km away from the sea, from the beach and you have a freedom to lock your cell from inside! And also, apparently, you have in your cell a button to press if you want to call for help! Or have I misunderstood the purpose of this button? According to feedback on Google Maps the prison guards that might appear if you press this button are quite impatient and impolite.
Your entire situation seems to me so surreal that, if I did not know that it was your reality, I would assume it was a story by George Orwell. Maybe with the help of Franz Kafka.
I feel very bitter about it. I know many people are thinking of you and wishing you freedom. The world of human humans is on your side and will be standing by you until the decision of the European Court of Human Rights is fulfilled and you are acquitted for good from all the false accusations.
I love your country and its history and that makes me feel even more bitter. Many years ago, I invited the most known Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk to visit Ukraine and as a result we have now many of his novels translated into Ukrainian. He is also one of the authors published by Iletisim Publishers. He is one of writers who brought Turkey to the world. I would be happy to welcome you in Ukraine once you are free. I would be very happy for you to return to civil society activities and cultural projects.
I believe this time will come very soon. See you in Kiev or in Istanbul
Andrey Kurkov, Novelist
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Osman Kavala has dedicated his life to promoting open dialogue and peace, human rights, and democratic values in Turkey. He helped establish a number of civil society organisations, including Anadolu Kültür (Anatolian Culture), a cultural association that aims to foster a celebration of diversity through cultural and artistic exchange. He also helped found İletişim Publishing in 1983, which has since become one of Turkey’s largest publishing houses.
Kavala was first detained on 18 October 2017 at Istanbul’s Atatürk airport upon returning from the city of Gaziantep, south eastern Turkey. On 1 November 2017, a court in Istanbul ruled that he be remanded in Silivri Prison, where he has been detained ever since. He was formally charged 16 months after his arrest. A 657-page long indictment accused him and 15 co-defendants of being responsible for crimes allegedly committed by protestors across Turkey during the Gezi Park protests and reframed the overwhelmingly peaceful protests as a conspiracy to overthrow the government.
The trial started on 24 June 2019 and ended on 18 February 2020 with Kavala’s acquittal. However, celebrations were short-lived when, just hours after, the Public Prosecutor announced that they were appealing the acquittal and opening a new investigation against him. He was returned to detention where he remains today.
On 8 October 2020, the Istanbul Heavy Criminal Court No 36 announced a new indictment against Kavala under Article 309 of the Penal Code relating to “attempts to abolish, replace or prevent the implementation of, through force and violence, the constitutional order of the republic of Turkey” carrying an aggravated life sentence. (Those convicted of aggravated life sentences also face harsher detention conditions, including solitary confinement for up to 23 hours per day.) He has been additionally charged under Article 328 of ‘espionage’ carrying a maximum 20-year sentence. The indictment refers to his alleged involvement in the coup attempt of 2016.
Amnesty International notes that this new indictment provides Kavala’s cultural projects, details of his travel inside Turkey and abroad as ‘evidence’ of the two charges and that his previous prosecution in the Gezi trial is referenced without mentioning that he was acquitted of all charges in February 2020.
The decision to hold Osman Kavala in prison and to proceed with his prosecution flies in the face of a December 2019 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights ordering his immediate release. The court found that Kavala’s detention ‘pursued an ulterior purpose…namely that of reducing [him] to silence’.