Gezi Park defendants must be acquitted, say 1376 activists 

More than 1300 activists have called for the acquittal of defendants in the Gezi Park who stand trial in the Istanbul 30th Heavy Penal Court on Tuesday. 

On Sunday, the petition signed by 1,376 people was published under a motto of “I was there too”. The statement said the public had also made their voices heard during the Gezi Park protests and that their aspirations and demands which cannot be tried.

“I was at the Gezi [protests] too, in order to express my thoughts freely. I was there too, in a bid to experience the beauty of shared protest and solidarity,” said the signees, including Composer Zulfu Livaneli, Novelist Ayşe Kulin, Designer Barbaros Sansal, Journalist Ergun Babahan, and Writer Ihsan Eliacik.

The participants said they were at the Gezi so that nobody can interfere with what they would wear, how many children they would give birth to and whether they would laugh or not, referring to previous remarks by the seniors of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

“I was there too, so the city [Istanbul] that I live in does not turn into a concrete mass, … because I want to live in peace. We were all there,’’ the petition read.

Turkey’s 2013 Gezi Park protests were triggered by the attempt of the then Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to raze Istanbul’s central Gezi Park to allow for the building of a shopping mall, later spreading rapidly to other cities.

Erdogan deems the Gezi protests as a foreign-backed plot to bring down the government and carries on a crackdown against the alleged plotters of the demonstrations.

Osman Kavala, a renowned philanthropist, and human rights activist, and other 15, are accused by the Turkish state of attempting to violently overthrow the AKP government by organizing the protests.

On February 6, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor, in his final sentencing opinion submitted to the court demanded that the three alleged masterminds –Kavala, Mucella Yapici, an executive of the Istanbul Chamber of Architects, and Yigit Aksakoglu, a civil society activist – be jailed for life.

The Istanbul court has also been requested by the prosecution to hand down prison sentences ranging between 15 to 20 years for six other defendants, Cigdem Mater Utku, Ali Hakan Altinay, Mine Ozerden, Serafettin Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman, Yigit Ali Ekmekci.

In its sixth hearing on January 28, the court ruled that Kavala was to remain in custody, the only suspect in the case still behind bars.

The ruling came despite a December ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ordering the businessman’s immediate release.

The hashtag, #GeziyiSavunuyoruz (We defend the Gezi), called on two former AKP senior members who are among the complainants in the Gezi Park trials to withdraw their complaint.

“Ali Babacan [the former deputy PM]! Ahmet Davutoglu [the former AKP PM]! Our call [for you] is obvious. You could tell the press that you are not among the injured parties in the case. Then you can tell this in the court as well,” said the activists in on social media.

Speaking to media outlets, the two former AKP officials had separately said that they were not among the victims of the Gezi incidents, even though they are still officially among the 746 complainants in the case.

Davutoglu formed the Future Party (FP), a new rival political party, last December, while Babacan is expected to announce another rival party in the coming days.

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