Translated by Melissa Clissold
Following the release of Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak, Osman Kavala’s case has been one of the cases that has been followed incredibly closely in the West, especially in Europe. The fact that Kavala has reached his 737th day of arrest, puts the political administration in a very difficult position as they continue to try and bargain with the West, through him.
Hello, good day. Today, I would like to talk about Osman Kavala. I made a broadcast about this earlier, and I’ve spoken a lot about Osman Kavala in other broadcasts; but today I would like to discuss this once more. Osman Kavala’s case has been followed closely by the international public especially after Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak’s case. Mümtazer Türköne is also in prison, and there are other journalists; but when it comes to freedom of thought in Turkey, the first name that comes to mind with regards to human rights violations is the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) – of course Selahattin Demirtaş first and foremost – on the other hand there is Osman Kavala, who is not a politician but an intellectual from civil society.
Today is the 737th Day of Kavala’s arrest, so it has been more than two years. There is no basis in the accusations made against him; in fact, we have seen that there are some among the court board who want to let him go, but he is not being discharged. This is actually a political case, there is no crime, but there is a crime that is wanting to be created. This reminds us of cases that the Gülenists created during the period of AKP rule. The same sort of situation exists for the police chiefs who carried out the listening. So, continuity has remained the same for the state, and now Osman Kavala is being blamed for some records that the Gülenists – who the AKP government has determined an enemy – kept ‘just in case’. He has remained in prison for over two years now.
So, how can we see that this is a political case? Because, the international public, especially in the West – and Europeans – are constantly bringing up Osman Kavala and we know that President Erdoğan is malcontent about this interest. In one-to-one meetings taking place with European leaders, we know that Osman Kavala is brought to the agenda often. The reason for this is because the civil society activities that Osman Kavala carries out also have a large international dimension, he had close relations with the European Union (EU), certain activities he carries out are co-ordinated with the EU, and as a civil society activist he is well-known in the West, he is a reputable name among the media, bureaucrats and politicians.
This actually worked against Osman Kavala; because, the value that the West attributed to him, was on some way registered by those ruling Turkey – of course, foremost by President Erdoğan. On the one hand, the value that the West placed upon him, led to him being disliked by those ruling Turkey – we must especially stress the Kurdish problem -, on the other hand, it was thought that he could be used as a great marketing card too. Why do I say this? Because, we know that in recent times, certain cases being carried out in Turkey are being used as some sort of bargaining strategy with certain Western countries.
For example, a young French journalist called Loup Bureau or student of journalism, was arrested upon returning from Syria. He remained arrested for 52 days, and was released only when French President Emmanuel Macron got personally involved; he then went straight back France. We know that there was some sort of bargaining involved with the country of his citizenship, we do not know the details. Deniz Yücel’s case is even more striking; he was in prison for a year, and despite him being originally from Turkey, he is a journalist who has German citizenship – and with the involvement of the German government, he was somehow released suddenly and taken back to Germany accompanied by German diplomats and awful accusations were made about him. We know that some sort of bargaining took place there too, but we do not know the details. The most recent example of this was with regards to Pastor Brunson.
Brunson became an issue of bargaining with the USA; in fact, President Erdoğan once said “They tell us to release the pastor, and we tell them that they should also release the pastor in their hands – Fethullah Gülen”, basically “Here’s your pastor, give us our pastor” was expressed clearly in front of cameras. He was in prison for over two years, there were plenty of accusations around him, regarding FETÖ and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) etc. Afterwards, upon a lot of pressure – he is an Evangelist missionary and Evangelists are the most important supporters of the Trump administration, and Vice-President Pence is also the US Vice-President – upon a of pressure from the US, first he was released on house-arrest on July 25 in 2018 and on October 12 he was discharged and deported. We know from the tweets that Trump has written, Trump himself stressed that this was an issue of bargaining when the Syrian crisis kicked off and in fact he had threatened Turkey with Syria, “Just like I did with the Brunson incident.”
Now Osman Kavala appears to be a Trump card in the States’ hands – especially with regards to debates and bargains with the West, especially with Europe. Of course, the largest Trump card that Turkey has with Europe is the thousands of Syrian refugees, that’s all together something else. Osman Kavala, with his symbolic meaning, remains a very important Trump card; but Osman Kavala, is not a citizen of any Western country such as Loup Bureau, Deniz Yücel or Pastor Brunson. Therefore, there are no countries that can bargain for him. So, in some ways Osman Kavala is paying the price of being a citizen of the Republic of Turkey – sad, but true. Such a meaning exists here, just like I said at the beginning of the broadcast, there is a reason for keeping Osman Kavala behind bars.
If we come to the meaninglessness of it all; the price of keeping Osman Kavala inside is getting heavier and heavier for Turkey and for the Erdoğan administration. Especially after the latest decisions by the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court; the discharge of Cumhuriyet writer Ahmet Altan, and Nazlı Ilıcak; just as Mehmet Altan has been acquitted. Turkey and Erdoğan are not receiving anything in return. Osman Kavala still being held in prison for over two years without any credible evidence, and the fact that President Erdoğan brings this topic up in different situations as if it is a personal issue, minimizes even further the trust that the West holds towards Erdoğan.
For this reason, the Osman Kavala incident now always comes up as a problem, and as long as he remains in prison, it will continue to do so. For example, in the upcoming days in Turkey, Erdoğan will be asking the West, especially Europe, for finances to construct a safe zone within Syria. Yet, the fact that relations have already been damaged with Europe especially after Operation Peace Spring, Osman Kavala became an excuse or a justification to not work together with Turkey and Erdoğan. One of my friends compared this to the inventory cost in commerce when we were discussing the topic today. We see a similar situation as when a first potentially profitable investment later works against the merchant.
The more the state puts off Osman Kaval’s freedom – it has been over two years, for example the Gezi Case was created for Osman Kavala, but it was made clear that nothing would come out of that case, they tried to pin something on him for July 15, but they can’t find anything there either; but they are constantly delaying Kavala’s release and freedom. As long as they do this, Turkey and those ruling Turkey are being deemed less trustworthy and believable by the West and especially Europeans. Those who know Osman Kavala, state that his greatest speciality was his altruism, that he was someone who worked for others who were unlike him.
It is known also that there is no conspiracy theory, hidden accounts etc. present here either; he could be someone living a very comfortable and prosperous life due to the wealth and opportunities of his family, instead he is known as someone who supports, joins personally and finances several civil society activities, cultural activities and societal activities. In this respect, if something is to be done to Osman Kavala by the Republic of Turkey – of course our state does not have such a speciality – then the thing that should be done is actually to award him. I am guessing and hoping that in the future that future administrations will come to such a point.
The things that he had done and wants to do clash with the vision and goals of those who rule over Turkey, and so they are trying to create a crime here, they are trying to do this knowing that such a crime does not exist and are continuing to do this even though they are unable to convince anyone. I believe that this cycle will break at some point. But there is a sad truth; and that is that there is no one really left around to tell Erdoğan that this is no longer a “win win” situation – it is a “lose lose” situation.
Of course, what is lost here is Osman Kavala’s freedom, but at the same time, those who are depriving him of his freedom are also not gaining anything, in fact they are losing more than they can imagine. I think that from now on we must speak out in terms of interests instead of people’s conscience or their understanding of law. What is happening is that Osman Kavala is being mistreated. But it is clear that there is nothing left to gain from this situation by those ruling the country, it has passed this point in the two years of Kavala’s imprisonment. They need to understand that there is no longer any point in delaying this further. Yes, that is all I have to say. Good day.