Gezi Park defendants are free

A Turkish court acquits 9 defendants for Gezi protests

The prosecution had asked for life imprisonment without parole for those accused of “trying to overthrow the government” during the protests that shook Turkey in 2013.

An Istanbul court on Tuesday decided to acquit nine defendants of their charges for the Gezi Park protests that rocked Turkey in 2013, accusations that included “attempt to overthrow the government” and for which the prosecution had come to ask for life imprisonment.

The trial was held in a court located near the famous Silivri Prison, just outside Istanbul, where hundreds of friends and supporters of the defendants and representatives of various civil organizations had gathered to demand a fair sentence. 7 of the defendants were being tried in absentia.

The court finally decided to acquit the businessman Osman Kavala and the rest of the defendants – including the well-known activist Mücella Yapıcı, the academic Yiğit Aksakoğlu or the fugitive journalist and former director of the Cumhuriyet newspaper Can Dündar – of all charges for who were accused following their involvement in the protests against the government in 2013.

The Strasbourg Court ruled that there was insufficient evidence

The court also decreed the immediate release of Kavala, the only one of the defendants who was still in prison, where he had been waiting for more than two years for his sentence, which occurs after the Strasbourg Court asked last month of December for his immediate release on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to support the charges against him.

The State Prosecutor’s Office had asked for Kavala, Yapıcı and Aksakoğlu a life sentence without parole for considering that they had participated in an organized plan to unleash the protests and overthrow the elected government. However, they and the rest of the defendants always defended their innocence by ensuring that Gezi’s demonstrations were spontaneous and that they limited themselves to exercise their democratic right to protest.

8 protesters and a policeman were killed and dozens more were injured by the violent protests that broke out between June and July 2013; what began as a small environmental protest to prevent the trees of the Gezi Park from being cut down in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, ended up leading to a wave of demonstrations against the government after the police violently expelled the activists from the park.