Detainees Go on Trial in Turkey for Holding Anti-Govt Protests

Monday, 24 June, 2019 - 08:30
Asharq Al-Awsat

Sixteen detainees held on terror charges and accusations of organizing anti-government protests in 2013 went on trial in Turkey on Monday.

The 657-page indictment calls for life sentences without parole for the defendants, who are accused of attempting to overthrow the government and financing the protests among other charges.

The Gezi demonstrations in the summer of 2013 started as a protest against the redevelopment of a park in Istanbul, a city with limited green space, and quickly spread across the country.

Then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismissed the idea that the protests were environmentally motivated, saying they aimed to topple his government.

Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse mostly peaceful protesters.

Prominent civil society figure Osman Kavala has been in pre-trial detention for 19 months and Yigit Aksakoglu, who works for an early childhood education foundation, for seven months.

Kavala launched his defense on Monday in the court in Silivri, a town west of Istanbul and the site of Turkey’s largest prison, where he has been held on remand since 2017.

“The accusation for which I have been imprisoned for the past 20 months is based on a series of claims that have no factual basis and defy logic,” Kavala told the court.

Outside the courthouse several hundred supporters of the defendants gathered with riot police watching nearby.

Kavala is accused of spreading the protests through his organization, Anadolu Kultur, which promotes culture and human rights. Aksakoglu was jailed pending trial last November.

Human Rights Watch called the charges "bogus."

The case began against a backdrop of concerns about growing authoritarianism in Turkey, where tens of thousands have been arrested in a crackdown on dissent since a failed military coup targeting Erdogan in 2016.

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