Osman's Kavala


December 8, 2021

Osman Kavála (born October 2, 1957 in Paris) is a Turkish businessman, activist and political prisoner. He is one of Turkey's leading philanthropists and a significant businessman who is referred to as "the red billionaire" for his radical views. He has quietly supported artists and intellectuals. In 1983, he helped establish the publishing house İletişim Yayınları, which has published Orhan Pamuk, among others. Kavála supported the Swiss historian Hans-Lukas Kieser in his work on Talaat Pasha: Father of Modern Turkey, Architect of Genocide (Princeton University Press, 2018).


He was born in Paris in 1957. The family has run a tobacco business. The family moved from northern Greece to Turkey during the population exchange in 1923. He studied at the exclusive Robert College in Istanbul and economics at the University of Manchester. In Manchester in the 1970s, he became acquainted with members of the IRA. He interrupted his doctoral studies at The New School of Social Research and returned to Istanbul to take over the family business when his father died.


He has been imprisoned since October 18, 2017 for his role in the demonstrations around Gezi Park and alleged attempts to disrupt the constitutional order and overthrow the government by violent means. In October, ten embassies in Turkey requested the release of Kavála. The background for the ambassadors' demand is a decision by the European Court of Human Rights, which believes that Turkey is violating the human rights convention by keeping Kavála in prison. He is also charged with complicity in the coup attempt in 2016. He risks life for the conditions for which he is charged. He has not been convicted of anything. The Human Rights Court concluded in 2019 that the imprisonment of Kavála is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights in several respects: reasonable grounds for suspicion (Article 5 (1)), judicial review of the case within a reasonable time (Article 5 (4)) and restrictions on individual rights with another motive (Article 18). Violation of Article 18 is the most serious. In October 2021, it was announced that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would declare ambassadors from 10 countries (including Norway) unwanted in Turkey. The background is that Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and the United States in a joint statement on October 18 demanded the release of Kavala. Erdoğan withdrew a few days later the threat to expel the ambassadors.


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