Police detain 38 people at protests over referendum result

A total of 38 people were detained in Istanbul over protesting the Supreme Election Board’s (YSK) last-minute decision to accept unstamped ballots as valid in the April 16 constitutional referendum.

Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP) provincial manager Mesut Geçgel is among those detained in an operation carried out by anti-terror police on April 19, daily Birgün reported. 

According to a statement released from the party, Geçgel is accused of “provoking the public” by saying the “yes” vote was illegitimate.

Geçgel said on his Twitter account that he was being detained for protesting against the “yes” result. 

Some 51.4 percent of the more than 58 million Turkish voters said “yes” to the constitutional amendment package in a tight race to decide on whether to shift to an executive presidential system.

The YSK decision to accept unstamped ballot papers “unless it can be proved that they were brought from outside the voting room” sparked a major debate on the results of the referendum, in which the “yes” campaign emerged as the winner with 51.4 percent of the votes.

The detainees are now reportedly being questioned at the police headquarters in central Istanbul.

Meanwhile, protests against the results of the constitutional referendum continued on April 18 in Turkey, as protesters declared that controversial amendments had been rejected, while accusing the YSK of meddling with the results.

Protests were centered in four districts of Istanbul, Kadıköy, Beşiktaş, Bakırköy and Avcılar, all of which voted heavily for “no.”

Crowds gathered in Beşiktaş at 7:30 p.m. and marched while chanting slogans. Some of the residents of the neighborhood supported the protest by banging on pots and pans.

“No, we won, Istanbul is ours” and “Resistance and ‘no’ are everywhere” were among the slogans that the crowd chanted, while attempting to walk to Taksim. The protesters were stopped by police at the entrance of Sinanpaşa Köprüsü Street, with the protest ending after two hours. 

In Kadıköy, women gathered in front of the Süreyya Opera House at 7:30 p.m. and started marching with banners reading “Kadıköy don’t sleep, protect your ‘no,’” “No, we won’t accept it,” “Women won’t remain silent,” “Women are strong together” and “No, it’s not over and the struggle continues.” They were also supported by residents banging on pots and pans.

The group dispersed after making a press statement. 

In Avcılar, a group of 150 people gathered at around 7 p.m. under tight police measures.  

Another protest took place in Bakırköy, where a group chanted slogans, including “Don’t be silent, shout ‘no’ to the presidency.” The group ended their protest after two hours. 

A group of some 1000 people gathered in the western province of İzmir to protest the YSK’s decision. The protest, in which main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Murat Bakan also participated, ended after the police warned the group to disperse.  

Ten people were detained in the southeastern province of Gaziantep during the protests. 

Crowds also took to the streets in the northwestern provinces of Tekirdağ and Çanakkale and the southern province of Mersin, which all ended without any disturbances.

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