Turkey must abandon 'show trial' against Gezi Park protest organisers

Tents in Gezi Park
Tents in Gezi Park © Amnesty International

The trial against a group of peaceful activists charged with organising ‘unlawful’ protests that swept Turkey a year ago is politically motivated and must be abandoned, said Amnesty International today.

Members of the Taksim Solidarity group, whose trial in Istanbul begins today, could face up to 15 and a half years in jail if found guilty.

Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher Andrew Gardner said:

“This is a vindictive, politically motivated show trial without a shred of evidence of actual crimes. It should be stopped at the first hearing. The prosecution has concocted a case simply to send a strong message to the rest of Turkey that the authorities will ruthlessly pursue anyone who dissents and organises protests against government policies.”

The prosecution case is based largely on tweets posted from the Taksim Solidarity Twitter account and from the defendants’ individual accounts. The tweets cited include calls on protesters to demonstrate peacefully. They also include condemnation of police violence and give details of makeshift health facilities and other information about developments during the protests. All 26 defendants are charged with “refusing to disperse from an unauthorised demonstration” under the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations.

Andrew Gardner added:

“The indictment does not contain any evidence of participation in, or incitement to, violence or any other criminal activity. It’s a scandal that it was accepted by the court.”

Five of the defendants, who are prominent Taksim Solidarity activists, now stand accused of calling people to take part in the “unlawful” protests. They are charged with “founding a criminal organisation”, and risk a jail term of up to 15 and a half years.

One defendant, who is not connected to Taksim Solidarity, is additionally charged with possession of three slingshots and marbles to be used as projectiles, which he denies.

Notes to Editors

Taksim Solidarity is a coalition of more than 100 organisations including architects, engineers, doctors, trade unionists and others. It was established in 2012, to contest plans for the Taksim Square and Gezi Park urban development project in Istanbul.

The coalition campaigned to raise public awareness about the project and called for peaceful demonstrations against the planned destruction of the park.  The ‘Gezi Park protests’ sparked anti-government demonstrations across the country with an estimated 3.5 million people taking part.

All the accused were detained on 8 July 2013, when police prevented Taksim Solidarity members from entering Gezi Park to make a press statement. Amnesty has begun an international solidarity campaign with Taksim Solidarity defendants on iamtaksim.tumblr.com

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