U.S. calls on Turkey to immediately release Osman Kavala

The United States called on Turkey to immediately release Osman Kavala from detention in a Wednesday evening statement.

A penal court in Istanbul last week ruled for the continuation of Kavala’s detention, rejecting the Turkish philanthropist and businessman’s demand to be released.

Kavala, arrested in 2017, is facing charges of political or military espionage and violating the constitution, together with former U.S. State Department employee and Turkey scholar Henri Barkey.

The statement released by State Department Spokesperson Edward Price said: "The specious charges against Kavala, his ongoing detention, and the continuing delays in the conclusion of his trial, including through the merger of cases against him, undermine respect for the rule of law and democracy."

The State Department also urged Turkey "to abide by the European Court of Human Rights’ rulings and ensure a just, transparent, and speedy resolution to the case in line with its domestic laws and international obligations".

Kavala and Barkey are accused of disseminating classified information on the state’s security and political interests, an accusation both deny. The prosecution is demanding life in prison for both, with an additional 20 years.

In an interview with Ahval in October, Barkey said the indictment had “no proof for any of the accusations”, and “everything they say is conjecture”.

The State Department expressed concern over the inclusion of Barkey in the court proceedings, describing the charges against him as "baseless".

“We call on Turkey to resolve his case in a just, transparent, and rapid manner,” the statement said.

Earlier in the day, Turkish Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey was ready to open a new page with the United States under President Joe Biden, and that Ankara was ready for a full partnership. 

There had been reports that Secretary of State Antony Blinken was preparing to call his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. But a statement for Kavala's release appears to have been issued instead. 

On Feb. 4, Price said the State Department "strongly condemned” anti-LGBTQI rhetoric surrounding recent student protests in Turkey. Top Turkish officials, including Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, have repeatedly described the protestors as “deviants”.

The United States stands shoulder to shoulder with those fighting for their democratic freedoms, and prioritises the protection of human rights, the State Department said.