Turkey: Gezi Park Trial
PEN Norway observes first hearing in Gezi Park retrial, where activists and football fans are on trial.
Author: Çiçek Tahaoğlu
Date: 8 October 2021
The retrial took place on 8 October, 2021 of 16 rights activists, among them Osman Kavala and a group of 35 Beşiktaş football fans in relation the Gezi Park protests of 2013.
In today’s hearing, Istanbul’s 13th High Criminal Court decided to extend the detention of rights defender Osman Kavala, who has now been detained in relation to the case for 4 years.
Kavala joined the hearing via the judicial conferencing system, SEGBIS, and presented his defence, stating: ‘The remarkable aspect of the allegations against me is not the fact that they are based on no tangible evidence, but that the allegations exceed the bounds of all logic and are a series of fantastical allegations based solely on conspiracy theories.”
Çarşı group’s lawyer walk-out of court
Lawyers for each group of defendants requested that the newly-joined case files be separated, stating that the bringing together of these different cases under one case file was contrary to the law and to criminal procedure. All legal teams stated that there were absolutely no connections between the Çarşı footbal fans case file and that of Gezi.
Following the lawyers’ requests, the judicial panel ruled to reject their demand and to keep the case files integrated. The court refused all legal demands made of them.
The Çarşı lawyers proceeded to state that the trial had proceeded in a wholly illegal manner and that it had not followed the procedural law. The Çarşı lawyers then walked out of the courtroom.
Following this, the defendants made their statements, including the only detained defendant, Osman Kavala, who made his defence statement via SEGBIS. The legal teams protested the merging of the case files and asked for time to prepare further defences against the allegations.
The Prosecutor gave his opinion that time could be granted for further legal preparation and demanded that the period of detention of Kavala be extended.
Acquittals overturned and case files merged
The main Gezi case in which 16 rights defenders were on trial, and the separate Çarşı case of 35 defendants both ended in acquittals. However, the acquittals in both cases were overturned and the retrials began.
On 15 June 2021 the head of the judicial panel of Istanbul’s 30th High Criminal Court, Mahmut Başbuğ requested that the case files of both rights defenders and football fans be merged. Following this, Başbuğ was installed as head of the judicial panel of Istanbul’s 13th High Criminal where he approved his own request on 2 August 2021.
PEN Norway spoke to the defence lawyers following the case.
Lawyer Aytöre: Kavala has been hounded for four years, despite no evidence of crime
Defendant and lawyer Can Atalay spoke to PEN Norway, saying: “The quest to link the Gezi Park protests to criminal activity is most peculiar. I have not detected one single piece of evidence in the whole case file that would justify this ongoing detention.”
Following the hearing Osman Kavala’s wife, Professor Ayşe Buğra and lawyer Tolga Aytöre made a statement to the press. Aytöre stated: ‘Merging two cases that have nothing in common has turned this case into a huge and chaotic court case. For years, the search has gone on to find some criminal activity with which to charge Kavala. We are extremely upset about this state of affairs, but the struggle goes on.”
Kavala’s wife, Professor Buğra had the following to say: ‘I do not feel as though I have just witnessed a court case at all. The Prosecutor did not demonstrate any curiosity or attempt to ask any questions. I see that he does not cross examine any of the defendants and I find this really shocking. The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers had recently made a statement confirming that unless Osman is released, infringement proceedings will be instigated. This is something that concerns the whole country. It is not just those close to the case that should think about this, but the country as a whole.’
Life sentences demanded
In the case file, the Gezi Park protests of 2013 are referred to as a ‘coup attempt’, with defendants being accused of the crimes of ‘Attempting to bring down the state; criminal damange; acquisition or supply of dangerous substances without permission; damage to religious buildings and cemetaries, wilful bodily harm, looting and breaking the law regarding the Protection of Cultural Heritage Monuments’. Life sentences are being sought in relation to the alleged crimes. The complainants in the case include the President of the Republic Recep Tayyıp Erdoğan and Ministers from the 61st ministerial cabinet.
The next hearing will be held on 26 Novembery 2021.