PEN Norway was present at the sixth hearing of the Gezi Park case 21 March 2022. Reported by: Çiçek Tahaoğlu
The trial of 16 rights defenders, including Osman Kavala over the Gezi Park protests, continued at Istanbul’s 13th High Criminal Court today.
Extending Kavala’s detention, the Court gave extra time to the defendants to submit their defence in response to the prosecutor’s opinion. The Court stated that this would be the last time the defendants were granted extra time.
The next hearing will be held on April 22, during which a judgement is expected to be delivered.
“The indictment is imbued with a certain political ideology”
Kavala was connected to the hearing from the prison using the SEGBİS system.
In the beginning, lawyers listed the shortcomings and unlawful aspects of the file. Lawyers stated that while all charges must have been legally justified, the case in question included no legal evidence. They highlighted that the evidence was not evaluated, the witnesses were not heard, the accusations against the defendants were modified over time, in short, no real trial was held in the court.
Attorney Tolga Aytöre said, “The indictment is imbued with an enthusiastic political ideology, and there is nothing legal in it.”
Attorney Köksal Bayraktar stated that the file should have been sent back to the 30th Assize Court, which was the only authorized court. Gezi case had previously been heard at the 30th Assize Court and resulted in acquittal.
Attorneys Tora Pekin and Evren İşler stated that everyone whose names were mentioned in the indictment should be heard in court as witnesses. Att. Pekin requested extra time for the submission of the defence on the merits, and said, “Two ECtHR applications have been made regarding this file. Stating that the scope of the file was too large, the Turkish government requested ECtHR to grant 6 months to submit its defence. Therefore, we also request an extension to master the file and submit our defence.”
Attorney Hasan Fehmi Demir stated that there were false allegations in the indictment and in the prosecutor’s opinion regarding the merits of the case. He said that there were official documents that verify the falsity of the allegations in question. Demir pointed out that the prosecutor used phrases such as “illegal institutions with a legal appearance”, a parlance which was unacceptable in a state of law. He said, “At this point we have to ask for the panel to act ethically.”
Attorney Hürrem Sönmez said, “We demand that the video footage taken to the Yerevan Film Festival in Armenia and produced by the client to allegedly overthrow the government be identified and the prosecution’s charges concretized.”
Allegations concerning “the attempt to overthrow the government”
16 rights defenders had been tried in the main Gezi Park Case and 35 football fans in Çarşı Case, both of which ended with the Court returning an acquittal. In both cases, however, the acquittal was overturned at the appeal court. This led to the merging of the files of the human rights defenders and football fans into one, and the whole trial process was recommenced.
In the 5th hearing of the case, which now began for the second time, the court ruled once again to separate the files of the football fans and rights defenders. The prosecution submitted to the court its opinion on the merits on March 4, 2022, two weeks after the hearing.
In the opinion, the prosecutor requested the defendants Kavala and Mücella Yapıcı be sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment on charges of “attempting to overthrow the government by force and violence”; the other defendants Çiğdem Mater, Hakan Altınay, Mine Özerden, Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman and Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi be sentenced to imprisonments from 15 to 20 years on charges of “aiding the attempt to overthrow the government by force and violence”. Another request was submitted to separate the files of the defendants living abroad.
The next hearing is on 22 April, 2022. PEN Norway will be in attendance.