Osman Kavala, a prominent Turkish art figure and activist who has been imprisoned since 2017, will soon mark 1,000 days behind bars. On this grim occasion, Kavala’s supporters are gearing up their campaign to demand his immediate release from prison with a series of online activities and events.
In February, Kavala was acquitted by an Istanbul court, and immediately detained again. After being cleared from charges of plotting to overthrow the government, he was kept in detention on new charges of espionage. Kavala has denied all the charges. On July 27, he will have spent 1,000 days in detention.
On Wednesday, PEN America sent a letter to the US Department of State urging the government to call for the “immediate and unconditional release of Kavala and all prisoners of conscience in Turkey.”
“Kavala’s case is emblematic of the thousands of people arbitrarily detained in Turkish prisons in the context of politically motivated prosecutions, simply for exercising their rights to peaceful opposition and freedom of expression,” PEN America’s letter says.
Kavala, the founder of the Istanbul-based nonprofit art center Anadolu Kültür, was one of several leading civil society activists in Turkey who were indicted in March 2019 for their alleged role in organizing the anti-government Gezi Park protests in 2013.
Kavala’s various initiatives to support cultural memory projects for Armenians, Kurds, Yazidis, and other marginalized groups in Turkey have put him in odds with Turkish authorities. In addition, Kavala worked to foster cultural ties with Armenia, against the government’s official policy.
In December of 2019, the European Court of Human Rights issued a ruling calling for Kavala’s immediate release due to a lack of “facts, information, or evidence” regarding any criminal activity.
This message is echoed in the renewed “Free Osman Kavala” campaign, which uses the hashtag #CrimeNotFound.
As part of the campaign, Kavala’s supporters have launched the project “1 Word for Osman Kavala,” in which participants are asked to describe the activist in one word. The results will be released on July 27. Additional materials, including video messages of solidarity from human rights organizations from around the world and a booklet summarizing Kavala’s case, will be released in the coming days.