Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday he respected a court decision to acquit philanthropist Osman Kavala and eight others over their role in the Gezi Park protests but that the 2013 unrest was a “heinous attack” on the country, according to Reuters.
“The Gezi events were a heinous attack targeting the people and state, just like military coups,” Erdoğan said in a speech to his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers in parliament.
“We respect the decision of the court, but the people’s verdict for those who took part in Gezi will never change,” he added.
Kavala was accused of orchestrating and financing the protests, which began over government plans to build over Gezi Park, one of the few green spaces left in İstanbul.
The protests snowballed into a nationwide movement that marked the first serious challenge to Erdoğan’s brand of Islamic conservatism and grandiose development projects.
Following the acquittal, Kavala was late Tuesday detained over an investigation related to a 2016 coup attempt.