Turkish judges' board looking into philanthropist's detention -document

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish judicial body is seeking a review of records related to the arrest and remand of philanthropist Osman Kavala, who has been held for three years on charges of seeking to oust the government, a document seen by Reuters on Friday showed.

FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the media after attending Friday prayers at Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey August 7, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Turkey’s Western allies, rights activists and opposition politicians have all called for the release of Kavala, detained since October 2017 without conviction, saying his continued detention pointed to political pressure on the judiciary.

Kavala and eight others were acquitted in February of charges related to street protests in 2013 that threatened the grip on power of then-premier, now President Tayyip Erdogan. But he was re-arrested the same day on charges related to a failed military coup in 2016, in which he has denied any role.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in December for his release. Erdogan has criticised ECHR rulings but said in a speech on Wednesday Turkey would strengthen the rule of law.

In the latest development, Turkey’s Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) issued a request for all rulings keeping Kavala jailed, the indictment against him and court records.

The document, dated Nov. 11 and marked “urgent”, said the information was sought in relation to a review of judges and prosecutors’ promotions, based on whether they upheld the rulings of the ECHR or Turkey’s Constitutional Court.

A statement on the HSK website on Friday said it was seeking court documents regarding all cases on which the ECHR made rulings in order to decide on promotions and not just on one case, describing this as a “general and routine” practice.

Kavala has been jailed for more than three years without a conviction. The second indictment against him, which Amnesty International called “absurd”, was accepted by an Istanbul court last month.

Erdogan and his AK Party deny claims of political pressure on the judiciary, saying it is independent. On Friday, he said Turkey was entering a new period in the judiciary and parliament will prioritise judiciary reform packages in 2021.

Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said on Thursday detention during a trial should be an exception.

Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Ece Toksabay Editing by Daren Butler and Mark Heinrich