Gezi process in Istanbul to be rolled out again | Free press

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Istanbul (dpa) – Nearly eight years after critical protests against the government in Turkey, a court in Istanbul is reopening a controversial case over the events of the time.

In the retrial, 16 suspects have had to answer since Friday, some of whom have already been acquitted in the first instance. Among them is cultural promoter Osman Kavala, who has been imprisoned for more than three and a half years and is also accused of espionage. The journalist Can Dündar, who lives in Germany, is also being charged.

Critics see the new process as purely politically motivated. Kavala called the approach of the judiciary Friday itself arbitrary and made comparisons with the time of National Socialism. An application for his release from custody was denied. The trial will now continue on August 6.

In January, an appeals court ruled that the proceedings should be reopened. Like Dündar, seven defendants are abroad. Their proceedings were initially broken. Kavala and the rest of the defendants were acquitted last year. However, he was subsequently arrested again on new charges related to the 2016 coup attempt, and the proceedings were merged with those that had just begun. His lawyer Köksal Bayraktar reported that Kavala was already suffering physical and mental damage from the long solitary confinement.

The largely peaceful Gezi protests in the summer of 2013 initially targeted the development of Gezi Park in central Istanbul. They expanded into nationwide demonstrations against the authoritarian policies of the then Prime Minister and now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The government has brutally quashed the protests.

Several defendants testified on the first day of the trial. The trial aroused a lot of interest. Many media representatives and international observers were partly expelled due to lack of space. Corona distance rules could not be enforced. Kavala herself was connected via video from the prison. His wife Ayse Bugra, a professor, was among the audience.

The merger of proceedings has been criticized by human rights defenders and lawyers alike. The charges were unrelated, it was said. In its ruling, the court also called for a merger with the so-called Carsi process. The decision on this is still pending. During the Gezi protests, a fan club from Besiktas football club called Carsi played an important role.

Among other things, the prosecution had accused a total of 35 football fans of using the Gezi protests as an excuse to overthrow the government. They were acquitted in December 2015 for lack of evidence. The verdict was quashed last month. Fikret İlkiz, another attorney from Kavala, said that if the proceedings were to be merged, the process would take many years. “We cannot tolerate that.”

Erdogan had publicly referred to Kavala several times in the past as the man behind the Gezi protests and his acquittal as a “maneuver”. The European Court of Human Rights had ordered Kavala’s release in December 2019 because there was not enough evidence against him.