Turkey has “deliberately destroyed” its chances of joining the EU by jailing Osman Kavala, a critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the European Parliament said on Thursday.
MEPs passed a non-binding resolution strongly condemning the life sentence an Istanbul court handed down Kavala last week on controversial charges of trying to overthrow the government.
The 64-year-old philanthropist had already been detained without conviction for more than four years.
“The current Turkish government has deliberately destroyed any hope of reopening its EU accession process or opening new chapters and closing those that were open under the current circumstances,” the resolution reads.
He called Kavala’s detention “unjust, illegal and illegitimate” and demanded his immediate release.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said shortly after the verdict that bloc members “deeply regret it”.
EU Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen told the European Parliament on Wednesday that the sentence was “a chilling warning about the shrinking space for civil society in Turkey”.
Kavala, a soft-spoken intellectual and businessman, denied the charges against him and said before the court verdict that he was the target of “judicial assassination”.
He was accused in court of funding large-scale anti-government protests in 2013 when Erdogan was prime minister. Erdogan portrayed him as a left-wing agent of Hungarian-born American billionaire George Soros.
Previously, Kavala had also been accused of taking part in a failed putsch in 2016 which was seen as the driving force behind a more authoritarian streak by Erdogan.
Turkey’s bid to relaunch EU membership talks has stalled as heightened tensions between Brussels and Ankara erupt over a host of issues, including increased repression under Erdogan in recent years.
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