In an unexpected decision, a Turkish court on Tuesday decided to acquit those accused of “leading” the Gezi Park revolt, a wave of protests that shook Turkey in 2013, which had been charged with the crime of “attempting to overthrow the Government”. This decision supposed, in principle, the end of the ordeal for 16 defendants, of whom three faced life in prison and the rest between 10 and 15 years in prison, and who had been described as “terrorists” by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who appeared as part of the prosecution. However, hours after the acquittal was decreed, the Office of the Prosecutor — who had announced allegations against the sentence–An investigation was taken out of his sleeve against the philanthropist Osman Kavala, the only one of the accused who had been in prison since 2017, and ordered his detention to be prolonged by linking him to the 2016 coup attempt.
It was 14:30 in the afternoon when the head of the court quickly read the sentence and the perplexity gave way to joy: All acquitted! It was the logical thing after a Kafkaesque trial riddled with irregularities and in which the evidence of the accusation was quite weak, but not for that reason what was expected. In fact, one of the accused, Yigit Aksakoglu, who was facing life in prison, had confessed to EL PAÍS that he had no hope of a positive resolution of the case. In addition, the defense strategy was to extend the trial hearing as much as possible so that the court could not issue its decision on Tuesday.
At campus Silivri penitentiary, on the outskirts of Istanbul, one of the largest prisons in Europe, had a large influx from early morning. The immense courtroom, the size of a sports hall and with the layout of a stadium in Ancient Greece, was presided over by two immense screens so as not to miss the details of the interventions, since from the stands at the back the accused appeared tiny, and their relatives and friends had to wave their arms to cross greetings with them. Dozens of defense attorneys sat to the left of the court; On the right, prosecutors, journalists, international observers and numerous deputies, as the opposition came as a block to exert pressure.
One after the other, the defense attorneys began to request the floor to request the appearance of new witnesses, complain that they were prevented from contesting the veracity of the evidence, request the audios of the telephone punctures on which the accusations were based (no have heard during the trial, only their transcripts have been seen) and to report that the entire case was built by prosecutors and police linked to the brotherhood of Fethullah Gülen are now in jail precisely for criminal behavior and tampering with evidence. All of these requests were rejected by the court, which did not bode well for the accused.
And so the court ordered philanthropist Osman Kavala to start his closing argument. Dismayed after more than two years in prison – despite the recent decision of the Strasbourg Court ordering his release – Kavala had the face of an oil painting by José Ribera: the abundant beard, the sunken cheekbones … Although he has dedicated his life to cultural and defense issues of ethnic and religious minorities, he was accused of being the brain of the Gezi protests at the behest of the millionaire George Soros (black beast of the new national-populist right), something that the accused called “fiction” conspiracy ”. Another of the main defendants, Mücella Yapici, argued that she had already been acquitted in an earlier proceeding based on the same summary and, then, the court ruled that “the Gezi protests were not an attempt at a coup d’état but an exercise in freedom of expression ”, in addition to having been a horizontal movement“ without leaders or organizers ”. Finally, against all odds, acquittal came. And with her, the hugs, the tears of joy and the relief of those who were behind bars for the rest of their lives.
The Prosecutor’s Office has already announced that it will appeal the court’s decision and it will be the Court of Appeals that will have to decide on it. In addition to the nine defendants present this Tuesday at Silivri, orseven others have been tried in absentia because they have been exiled from the country (including the journalist Can Dündar) and their cases have become a separate piece from the main summary. The court decided to lift the search and arrest warrant that hangs over them.
The decision has sat down badly in some pro-government media and highlights in its pieces the damage caused by the Gezi protesters. However, recently, sources of the AKP party, in power, recognized that four years after the attempted coup and the purges that followed, the time has come to start loosening the exceptional legislation then approved and recover certain rights and freedoms. .
In this sense, the Gezi ruling could have been interpreted as a small step back to normality, as required by the European partners of Turkey, a country still a candidate for accession and for which the EU remains its main trading partner. That had not been because the Office of the Prosecutor – strongly influenced by the Government – seemed not to have digested the blow of the sentence and dealt an equally unexpected blow. While friends and family of Kavala had gathered to await his release, news came that the Prosecutor’s Office was issuing a new arrest warrant for a new investigation: he is now linked to the 2016 coup attempt. An excuse that seems to have come out of sleeve to prevent his release. Not surprisingly, according to political scientist Umut Özkirimli, Kavala was the true target of the Gezi case, being a person with whom “Erdogan has a particular fixation”. The Turkish president has even branded Kavala as “terrorist financier” and “representative of the famous Hungarian Jew Soros.”
German MEP Sergey Lagodinsky, president of the EU-Turkey delegation, dismissed the new Prosecutor’s order as “an absolute and indescribable scandal” and demanded that the courts and authorities “stop this illegal and inhumane madness”. Canan Kaftancioglu, provincial leader of the opposition CHP party and also investigated by the courts, tweeted: “You will drown in your own injustice.”
The next litmus test for Turkish Justice will be this Wednesday, when a new hearing is held on the controversial trial against 11 human rights activists – including local Amnesty International leaders – who face up to 15 years in prison on terrorism charges. .
The Turkish Prosecutor’s Office issued arrest warrants on Tuesday against nearly 700 military, police and officials with alleged links to the brotherhood of the Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen, exiled in the United States. Police officers launched raids in various parts of the country and detained at least a hundred suspects, according to the state agency Anadolu.
Search and capture orders are directed against 71 suspects gülenistas in the Ministry of Justice, another 157 in the Armed Forces (of which one hundred are NCOs) and another 467 suspected of having rigged the examinations for access to the Police. For decades, sympathy officials gülenistas they provided in advance to their co-religionists the responses of the oppositions to infiltrate the Administration. In Erdogan’s first governments, his party and the movement gülenista They actively collaborated, but later broke the alliance and began a fight that culminated in the 2016 coup attempt. After this attempt, more than 100,000 officers have been purged and more than 50,000 detained for alleged links to the gülenistas, now considered a “terrorist” and “coup” organization.