Kavala..a new crisis between Turkey and the West

The Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the ambassadors of 10 Western countries to it and handed them a warning because of their interference in the work of the Turkish judiciary. Then Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to declare them persona non grata in his country, before retracting their position, following a joint statement by these ambassadors regarding the trial of Turkish businessman Osman Kavala.

Usman Kavala

Osman Kavala was born in 1957 in Paris, and studied at several universities, before leaving his doctoral program outside Turkey in 1982 following the death of his father to continue his family’s business, led by the Kavala Group.

In the eighties of the last century, Kavala founded the Anatolia Culture Foundation, chairs its board of directors, and is a member of the management of a number of other civil society organizations interested in politics, culture and history, in addition to being a member of the “Open Society” endowment of the well-known Hungarian businessman George Soros.

in the political dimension; The ambassadors went beyond the limits of their work as stipulated in the Vienna Convention, interfering directly in Turkey’s internal affairs, issuing a statement as if dictating to the Turkish judiciary what to do or giving instructions in what direction

Osman Kavala was arrested in October 2017 on charges of financing and running the Gezi Park events, protests against a park in central Istanbul in 2013 that turned into riots, and the government considered them an attempt to bring them down.

In October 2019, Kavala was acquitted of the charge of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” and was released, and he was acquitted in the “Jizi Park” case in February 2020, but his detention was extended on charges related to espionage and the failed coup attempt in 2016. He is still detained pending the case until now.

Kavala resorted to the Constitutional Court under the “individual requests”, requesting his release as a matter of violating his freedom and security, but the court dismissed the case. Then he submitted a similar request to the European Court of Human Rights, which considered in its decision issued in December 2019 that Kavala’s imprisonment was political, and “a punishment for his opposition to the government,” noting that his continued detention was a violation of his rights, and demanded his “immediate release,” which is What did not happen.

In February 2021, Istanbul Criminal Court No. 3 overturned the acquittal of Kavala and eight other defendants in the Jezi Park case, which means that he will continue to be tried in several merged cases.

political and legal

On the 18th of this month, the ambassadors of the United States of America, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Canada and New Zealand issued a joint statement regarding Osman Kavala. The statement said that “constantly postponing the decision of the case” by merging cases with each other and “creating” new cases after the acquittal decision “casts a shadow on the principles of respect for democracy, the rule of law and transparency” in the Turkish judiciary. The statement called on Turkey to “release Osman Kavala immediately,” expressing the ten countries’ conviction of the need to end the case fairly and quickly, and “in line with Turkey’s international responsibilities and domestic laws.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the ambassadors and charge d’affaires who issued the statement, and warned them about the “rejected and transgressive statement” regarding a legal process on which the Turkish judiciary is based. The Foreign Ministry warned them – according to a statement – that this statement, which seeks to “politicize legal issues and try to put pressure on the Turkish judiciary” is rejected, and that it contradicts the rule of law, democracy and the independence of the judiciary that “relevant embassies claim” to defend. The Turkish Foreign Ministry statement also drew attention to the “double standards and lack of credibility” of those who ignored numerous decisions issued by the European Court of Human Rights against other countries that were not implemented for years, while they focus on issues related to Turkey, and the Kavala case in particular.

Erdogan said that his country “does not have the luxury” to keep these ambassadors on its soil, and then said that he had instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to declare them persona non grata in Turkey, which is the diplomatic description of “expelling” the ambassador of one country from the territory of another country. .

In the political dimension; The ambassadors went beyond the limits of their work as stipulated in the Vienna Convention, interfering directly in Turkey’s internal affairs, issuing a statement as if dictating to the Turkish judiciary what to do, or giving it instructions in a way.

This diplomatic overreach is not the only remarkable thing about it; The countries whose embassies signed the statement are not all members of the European Union, so that it can be said that the statement is part of the last “guardianship” of Turkey, after which it seeks to join it and is under evaluation. Nor are they all European, even to say that they are concerned with the decision of the European Court of Human Rights.

In addition, the statement came collectively and not a stand alone for each country separately, as well as its export on the tongues of the ambassadors of those countries in Turkey and not the ministries of foreign affairs, for example, which is striking in itself, and raises question marks about the main objective of the statement.

One of those who asked the questions was the Turkish writer Kemal Ozturk, where he pointed out that the statement in this way is not in the interest of Kavala and his cause, but rather embarrasses his defenders, especially since the statement seemed to dictate to the Turkish judiciary what to do and give him instructions, which is something – according to Ozturk – he realizes this States certainly, so helping him does not seem to be the main objective.

As for legal; There is no doubt that there are loopholes in the case of Kavala, and other detainees, that many Turkish jurists and politicians do not deny, and these are loopholes through which the statements of Western ambassadors have crept in. At the forefront of these gaps are two: the first is the length of the detention period in relation to related cases, especially since there are those who argue that the reasons for continuing detention (such as changing crime scenes or tampering with evidence, etc.) no longer exist after all these years, and that there are other legal options other than Prolonging the period of detention. On the other hand, a presidential decree set the maximum period for this at 5 years for crimes related to state security, the constitutional order and support for terrorism, which means that the period of his detention remains within the legal framework, especially when calculating the new cases under which he is being tried.

The second loophole is the failure to comply with the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, a court of the Council of Europe (an organization of 47 states, different from the European Council or the Council of the European Union) and its decisions are supposed to be binding under Article 90 of the Turkish Constitution. Therefore, a number of Turkish personalities and parties – the opposition in particular – rejected the ambassadors’ statement, but at the same time called for alerting and correcting these and similar gaps, especially as the government is currently working on a package of judicial reforms.


The subsequent statement published by some Western embassies on their commitment to the Vienna Convention and non-interference in Turkey’s internal affairs defused the crisis, and prevented Ankara from carrying out its threat to declare ambassadors persona non grata on its soil; Therefore, the scenario of expulsion of ambassadors – and perhaps those countries expelling Turkey’s ambassadors in return, and the great crisis that these steps will cause, including its political and economic repercussions – no longer exists, but this seems only a temporary solution.

Ankara still views Kavala as “the Red Soros” as he is called, and that his cultural and human rights institutions are nothing but a cover for his main activity linked on the one hand to the businessman Soros (usually accused of antagonizing some regimes and supporting the coup against them), and on the other hand supporting the Kurdistan workers, and it seems She is convinced that he played roles in financing and running events such as Gezi Park, and possibly the failed coup.

Also, Western countries – led by the United States of America – will not hesitate to return to criticizing Turkey on similar issues, especially in the cases of Kavala and the former president of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, Selahattin Demirtaş.

Among the things that suggest this are some precedents in which legal tracks were linked to political contexts, foremost of which are the cases of the American monk Andrew Bronson, who was released after a crisis with the United States in 2018, and the German journalist (of Turkish origin) Deniz Yugal, who was released after the intervention of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. in the same year.

In sum, Turkey has avoided a major crisis and perhaps a rupture with a number of Western countries, led by the United States, Germany, France and the Netherlands, and its expected consequences, especially at the level of the economy. Turkish internal affairs. However, it seems that Turkish-Western relations will remain on a turbulent basis and are liable to be shaken by political, legal or economic pretexts until a short time, which is a matter that increases in importance and danger as the presidential and parliamentary elections approach in Turkey, which are considered exceptional and fateful.

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