Court in northwestern Turkey sentences 150 Gezi Park protesters

A court in Turkey’s northwestern province of Kocaeli has sentenced defendants of the Gezi Park trial to prison terms ranging from five months to three years, the Gazete Duvar news portal reported on Monday.

The Kocaeli 4th Penal Court of First Instance on Monday convicted 150 of the 236 defendants, who took part in the Gezi Park protests in the province, on the 66th hearing of the trial that started in January 2014.

The Gezi demonstrations started in the summer of 2013 with a small group of people protesting against the urban development plan for Istanbul’s Gezi Park in Taksim neighborhood.

The environmentally-motivated protests in Istanbul, a city with very limited green space, swiftly spread across Turkey with protesters besieging several government buildings.

While 150 defendants on Monday received 98 years in total behind bars, 17 more were sentenced to pay a total of 82,400 lira.

The defendants were convicted of a host of charges, including “opposing the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations”, “damaging public property,” and “resisting a police officer.”

According to a news report by Diren Celik from Gazete Duvar, Izmit District Municipality on Monday withdrew a complaint filed against some of the defendants over the claims that they had destroyed properties of the municipality during the protests.

The move came after the March 31 local government elections which resulted in the municipal government control changing from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to a municipality governed by the main opposition secular Republican People’s Party (CHP).

During the protests in 2013, then-Prime Minister Erdogan argued that the Gezi protests were not environmentally motivated and blamed the demonstrators for attempting to topple his AKP government.

He labels Gezi protesters along with those accused of orchestrating 2016’s failed coup attempt against ruling AKP as terrorists.

Erdogan’s government has jailed more than 77,000 people within the scope of a crackdown that followed the attempted coup and that the president regards as a necessary response to security threats.

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