Turkey’s Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) launched an investigation on Wednesday into the decision three judges who, on Tuesday, ordered the acquittal of the Gezi trial defendants, following criticism by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the decision.
The judges of the Istanbul 30th Heavy Penal Court acquitted the nine defendants, including the jailed businessman and activist Osman Kavala, over government accusations that they sought to overthrow the government in 2013 by staging the country-wide Gezi Park protests. They ruled that there was “not enough concrete evidence” against the accused.
Hours after the ruling, the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office issued a detention warrant for Kavala over accusations from a separate case related to the 2016 coup attempt.
Kavala, who has already spent nearly two and a half years in jail, is now accused of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order by being involved in the failed coup.
The HSK, Turkey’s legal disciplinary body responsible for judicial appointments, will probe the panel of judges as to whether there were “flaws” in their acquittal decision.
The HSK move came after Erdogan denounced the acquittal of the Gezi protesters in his parliamentary speech.
“This [the Gezi] is not an innocent protesting event. There are [George] Soros-like figures behind the curtains who seriously seek to stir up things by provoking revolt in some countries. His [Soros] Turkish leg [Kavala] was in jail. They tried to acquit him yesterday by a maneuver,” Erdogan said.
Since 2017, the HSK members have been appointed directly by Erdogan and the Turkish Parliament, which is mostly under the influence of Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Speaking to AKP members, the Turkish president likened the Gezi incidents to terror attacks and the 2016 coup bid.
The Gezi demonstrations initially began with a small group of people protesting the urban development plan for Taksim Gezi Park in Istanbul, a city with very limited green space, and later transformed into broader unrest against Erdogan across the country following the brutal police interventions which killed nine and injured 5,000 some others.
Kavala’s fresh detention warrant sparked criticism from the western world, with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas saying, “Kavala’s rearrest was incomprehensible from every point of view.”
Amnesty International’s Turkey campaigner Milena Buyum said: “This decision smacks of deliberate and calculated cruelty. This cynical and outrageous re-detention only deepens our resolve to continue to fight on Osman Kavala’s behalf. It is time for Turkey to end the relentless crackdown on dissenting voices. Osman Kavala must be immediately released from prison.”
In December, the European Court of Human Rights had urged Kavala’s immediate release, saying the human rights activist had not committed a crime as there was no reasonable suspicion in the Gezi indictment.
The prosecutor, who applied for Kavala’s new detention, had wanted Kavala and two others to be jailed for life in the Gezi indictment.
The new case against Kavala relates to the attempted coup in July 2016 for which the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and his followers are blamed.
Erdogan deems the Gulen movement a terrorist organization, calling it with an abbreviation of FETO.
Since the coup, the Erdogan regime has carried out a mass crackdown on the movement members, with more than 500,000 suspected members being detained and with hundreds of thousands of public officers being fired or suspended.
On Wednesday, Erdogan also called for another investigation for the main opposition secular party over possible links to Gulen.
This was after Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), pointed out Erdogan last week as “the political wing” of the Gulen movement.
CHP’s Kilicdaroglu blamed Erdogan for allowing thousands of Gulenists to be employed in the state institutions.