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Four Years Later 192 Turkish Citizens Are Sued For Participating Gezi Protests

Prosecutors have opened a case against citizens of Izmir who took part in the Gezi Park protests. The timing of the charges, which were prepared a full four years after the demonstrations took place, as well as the presence of human rights activists and lawyers amongst the accused, raise troubling questions about the neutrality of the judiciary.

The protests took place in May-June 2013, when a small local protest against plans to demolish Istanbul’s Gezi Park snowballed into nationwide protests after images of brutal police suppression spread on social media. The criminal charges, prepared by Izmir’s 37th Criminal Court of First Instance, identify 192 suspects who will be liable to a combined total of 80 years prison time according to the charges’ recommendation. While the one-page charge sheet acknowledges the police’s tough tactics, it accuses the suspects of damaging public property and injuring police officers during the clashes. The list of defendants reportedly includes human rights activists and lawyers who were present as observers of the protests.

One of the accused lawyers, Erdogan Akdogdu, has spoken out against the charges, claiming that the affair highlights the lack of judicial independence in Turkey, where,, according to Akdogdu, courts act on orders taken from the government.

The lawyer has also described conditions faced by other defendants in the trial, who he says are forced to attend pointless police interviews and sign off at judicial checks five days per week. This, says Akdogdu, amounts to the government employing the judiciary as “a stick to punish” dissident citizens with.

“The charges prepared four years after the Gezi protests took place are nothing more than an attempt to target and repress citizens”, said Akdogan in a statement condemning the case.

T24

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