The Committee of Ministers, the Council of Europe's statutory decision-making body, on Thursday launched infringement proceedings against Turkey because of its refusal to implement a 2019 European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment and release jailed Turkish businessperson Osman Kavala.
"The launch of infringement proceedings is a tool rarely used by the CoE Committee of Ministers and clearly indicates the serious concerns related with the case of Mr. Kavala, who has been kept in prison for years without a conviction," said a statement by a spokesperson of the European Union’s External Action Service on Thursday.
The statement said it was regrettable that Turkish authorities have refused to execute the respective ECtHR's ruling.
"Such attitude sets a worrying precedent and further increases the EU's concerns regarding Turkish judiciary's adherence to international and European standards. It also runs counter to Turkey's own obligations as a member of the Council of Europe and EU candidate country," it said.
It said the European Union will continue to closely follow the case and that it looks forward to the court's ruling on the matter.
The ECtHR ruled more than two years ago that Kavala should be released immediately and said his detention served to silence him, but Turkey has not carried out the ruling.
Turkey had responded by criticizing the Council of Europe for adopting a "biased" stance, saying it interfered in the ongoing independent judicial process.
"It is evident that this prejudiced and politically motivated decision, which disregards the domestic proceedings, damages the credibility of the European human rights system," the Foreign Ministry said.
"In order to ensure the effectiveness of the Council of Europe's human rights system, the Committee of Ministers should set aside its biased and selective approach."
Turkey will not respect the Council of Europe if it does not respect Turkish courts, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also said on Thursday when asked about the decision to refer the case against Kavala back to the top European court.
At a news conference, Erdoğan said Turkey will not recognize those who do not recognize its courts.
"What the ECtHR has said, what the Council of Europe says, this doesn't concern us much because we expect our courts to be respected," he said.
"To those who don't show this respect: excuse us, but we will have no respect for them either," Erdoğan added.
Kavala faced charges regarding the 2013 Gezi Park protests – a small number of demonstrations in Istanbul that later transformed into nationwide riots, which left eight protesters and one police officer dead. He was acquitted of all charges in February 2020, but an appeals court overturned that acquittal last January.
He was also accused of involvement in the 2016 defeated coup in Turkey orchestrated by the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), and was remanded into custody on spying charges in March 2020. Kavala has been held for more than four years without a conviction. Last month, a Turkish criminal court in Istanbul extended the detention of Kavala despite the pressure from Europe.