Trial resumes for first Gezi victim at Istanbul courthouse

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The two leading suspects in the killing of last summer’s first Gezi Park victim, Mehmet Ayvalıtaş, again failed to appear in an Istanbul court early May 21 for the third hearing into the ongoing case.

M.G.D. and C.A. are accused of mowing down 19-year-old Ayvalıtaş as a group of protesters near 1 Mayıs neighborhood in Istanbul’s Asian-side district of Ümraniye closed down the city’s E-5 Highway on June 2, 2013, two days after an eruption of anger over the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) decision to convert Taksim Gezi Park into an Ottoman-themed shopping mall.

The court refused to arrest the pair despite demands to do so from the victim’s lawyers, although it did order the capture of C.A.

The cause of Ayvalıtaş’s death was recorded as a “traffic accident,” but lawyers and the teenager’s family have accused drivers of intentionally hitting protesters on the highway as they sought to close the roadway in protest.

Testifying to the court in Istanbul’s Kartal district, witness Metin Arslan said the car that hit the protesters slammed into protesters on the highway at 140-150 km/h. “There was no rain, the weather was clear. There were vehicles passing by slowly, but these vehicles were really fast.”

“Because of the Gezi events, we were protesting,” said another witness, Özgür Baş. “We were about 6,000 people; we blocked off the road, but the cars hit the kids without even braking. People were waving flags. A jeep and other cars hit the kids. The jeep flipped over and crushed the kids.”

“As far as I saw from my view, the two vehicles came very quickly and hit the people; the other vehicles stopped. The jeep did not stop when it had the chance to do so,” said another witness, Mehmet Durmuş.

Ömer Kavili, a lawyer for the family, criticized the court for its failure to arrest suspects M.G.D. and C.A., saying the move was designed to “fool the people.”

Lawyers for the family also demanded that security camera footage of the event be sent to expert analysts, noting that current footage of the event might have tampered with as it only appeared after police had initially said there was no recording of the event, while prosecutors had said it was “lost.”

Attending a protest outside the court, prominent city planner and leading Taksim Solidarity member Mücella Yapıcı said, “The injustice is continuing with this hearing.”

Ayvalıtaş’s mother, Fadime Ayvalıtaş, passed away in December 2013 from a heart attack, with one of the family’s lawyers, Arzu Becerik, arguing that her death was partly caused by her anger over the injustice in the trial.

Sami Elvan, the father of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, who became the eighth Gezi victim after dying in March after spending 269 days in a coma after being shot by police, also attended the hearing in support of the Ayvalıtaş family.

The next hearing of the trial will be Sept. 22.

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