Turkey allows European Parliament rapporteur to visit Osman Kavala in prison

Turkey allows European Parliament rapporteur to visit Osman Kavala in prison
Turkey refuses to abide by a European Court of Human Rights ruling for the release of Osman Kavala. / @NachoSAmor, X
By bne IntelliNews December 7, 2023

Ankara on December 6 permitted the European Parliament's Turkey rapporteur Nacho Sanchez Amor to visit jailed Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala in prison on the same day that the European official warned that Turkey has become internationally isolated and must dial down its rhetoric if it wants to win key concessions from the European Union.

Sanchez Amor thanked the Turkish ministries of justice and foreign affairs on social messaging platform X for allowing the visit to go ahead, saying: "I hope this openness is a sign of a new period for the EU-Turkiye relations."

Kavala, 65, was sentenced to life in prison without parole in April 2022, but Ankara has ignored European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings calling for the release of Kavala and others imprisoned in various other cases. Sanchez Amor renewed calls for Turkey to abide by the rulings.

Kavala, along with seven co-defendants, who received 18-year prison sentences, were convicted of organising and financing the nationwide anti-government “Gezi Park” protests in 2013. They have always denied the charges, saying the protests were spontaneous.

Failure to comply with the ECtHR Kavala ruling showed Turkey has been "drifting away from the standards of human rights and fundamental freedoms to which it has subscribed as a member of the Council of Europe [Europe’s leading human rights organisation]", a European Commission annual report on Turkey's EU membership bid, released in early November, said. Turkey, it added, was guilty of “serious backsliding” on democratic standards.

Speaking in Istanbul, Sanchez Amor, as reported by AFP, said Ankara's abrasive talk on foreign affairs was one of the main impediments to improving relations with Brussels.

While Turkey’s quarter-century-old official EU membership application looks fated to remain in the deep freeze at least for the foreseeable future, it appears that the country is hoping to simplify European visa access for its citizens and to update a 1995 customs agreement with the EU that could help boost exports.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell last week recommended offering Turkey both of these gains in return for a series of concessions, including a clampdown by Ankara on the evasion of Ukraine war sanctions applied to Russia and progress on the issue of the divided island of Cyprus.

Sanchez Amor, whose meetings in Turkey included talks with opposition groups, also advised the Erdogan administration to “refrain from using an aggressive tone, a threatening tone”, noting that doing so would be “free and easy”.

"You are completely isolated. The only real friend you have is Azerbaijan," Sanchez Amor also reportedly said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a rare visit to Greece on December 7, with analysts expecting a warming of ties between the two historic foes that would be welcomed by the EU.

However, Erdogan condemned the West repeatedly during his May re-election campaign, while he has lately angered Western capitals by describing Hamas—the militant group designated as “terrorist” by the US, UK and EU that is presently at war with Israel in the Gaza Strip—as “a group of freedom and mujahideen [warriors]”.

AFP also this week quoted Erdogan as saying: "If it were not for the support of all Western countries, especially the United States, for Israel, we would not be facing such a situation in our region now [with events in Gaza].

"These countries' unlimited support—both in cash, weapons, ammunition and equipment—has turned Israel into the spoiled child of the West."

Sanchez Amor was reported as saying that he understood that this kind of rhetoric played well with the Turkish public.

"I know that many decisions of Turkey's foreign policy have a domestic approach," Sanchez Amor said.

"To be a good cooperative neighbour [of Europe] or to be a member, there are different paths and conditions," he added.