Chief Public Prosecutor of Istanbul wants life sentences for 16 people charged with attempting to overthrow the Turkish government during the 2013 Gezi protests.
Among the sixteen who have been charged are prominent figures Can Dundar – a critical journalist in exile – and Osman Kavala, a Turkish businessman and rights activist who has been in pre-trial detention for over 15 months.
The Gezi protests that started on May 28, 2013, aimed at defying Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasing drive for authoritarianism, were initially rallies of the masses who were discontent with a project on the revival of a military barracks in Istanbul’s Taksim square, which also involved the destruction of trees in the near-by Gezi park. However, the protests spread countrywide due to Erdogan’s increasingly divisive remarks, dismissing the protesters as “a few looters.”
Twenty-two people were killed and more than 8,000 injured during the clashes between the protesters and the riot police.
Efforts to undertake the project were halted, and the Gezi park remained untouched. However, Erdogan, on numerous occasions since then, has wanted to implement the project, but it appears to be suspended for the time being.
After the failed coup, Erdogan administration renewed their efforts to investigate the protests, resulting in a court case in Istanbul with the detention of Kavala, in late 2017, for allegedly financing and organizing the rallies.
The indictment against the defendants cites the then Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan as one of the plaintiffs among 746 plaintiffs, including the cabinet members of the period. The prosecution holds the indicted responsible for the violence that took place during the protests, accusing them of being the masterminds behind a putsch against the Turkish government.
Andrew Gardner from Amnesty International, denouncing the charges laid by the prosecution, said, “These outlandish allegations are an attempt to rewrite history and to silence some of Turkey’s most prominent civil society figures who now face the prospect of being tried by Turkey’s deeply flawed justice system.”
He continued, saying, “The Gezi protests were overwhelmingly peaceful with people simply exercising their rights. They were met by arbitrary and abusive force by police. It should be the authorities’ denial of these rights and the police violence against peaceful protestors that should be examined by the courts, not these 16 civil society figures who have not committed any crime.”
Following the announcement on the completion of the Gezi probe and the indictment, Kati Piri, the EU Rapporteur on Turkey, lashed out at the judicial process calling it a “joke.”
Referring to this particular court case in her report, Piri filed a resolution motion to the European Parliament calling on the European Union to suspend Turkey’s EU membership process. The motion was upheld by the Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday and is now pending a general vote in the parliamentary assembly next month.