The retiral of defendants accused of attempting to overthrow the government through the 2013 Gezi Park protests began in Istanbul on Friday.
Philanthropist Osman Kavala and 15 other civil society activists were acquitted last year of various charges in relation to organising the protests but saw the decision overturned on appeal in January.
The Gezi Park protests, as they became known, began with a small sit-in against efforts to demolish one of Istanbul’s last green spaces but quickly snowballed into a mass popular mobilisation against police brutality and the growing authoritarianism of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)
Critics say the renewed legal proceedings against Kavala and his fellow defendants are a politically motivated attempt to stifle dissent and punish human rights defenders.
Several former AKP ministers named as complainants in the trial as victims of efforts to oust the government have criticised the case.
Speaking to Ahval, then justice minister Sadullah Ergin, said: “We are not affected parties or complainants in the Gezi case, nor did we wish to be a party in proceedings.”
At a press conference ahead of the trial a lawyer for the defendants, Evren İşler, said: “The appeal decision of the Gezi trial tells us: ‘Okay, you haven’t found any evidence, then look here, if not, check here too. Isn’t it there too?’”
“The Gezi file is trying to be prosecuted with an indictment that does not contain any evidence,” he added.
The prosecution is seeking separate sentences of between 606 and 2,970 years for those accused.
(All times local Turkish time, GMT+3)
13:20 – Kavala hits out at “Nazi” espionage charges
In a further statement to judges, Kavala criticised the espionage charges against him:
“Undoubtedly, the prosecutor who prepared the recent indictment also recognises – and even admits – that there is no evidence in support of the espionage allegation.”
He said the legal basis for the allegations resembled laws used in Nazi Germany:
“The definition of espionage presented in the indictment is quite different from that in our laws. In terms of its ambiguity and suitability for arbitrary practices, the one in the indictment rather resembles the concept of “Landesverrat” (treason against the country) which was also utilised for charges of espionage in Germany during the Nazi period.”
Kavala was detained on espionages charges immediately after being acquitted at the original Gezi trial in February 2020. Supporters say the move aimed to block his release from jail.
After the Gezi acquittal was overturned on appeal in January, a Turkish court ruled that the legal cases against him should be combined into the current proceedings.
You can read Kavala’s full statement to the court here.
12:50 – Kavala says no justification for retrial
Osman Kavala has appeared in front of the court via video link from prison.
In his statement he said:
“When a lawsuit is filed against a defendant and they are acquitted, then the same defendant is prosecuted again for the same act, the only verdict than be reached is: ‘case dismissed.’”
Unlike many of the other defendants, Kavala is being held on pretrial detention that has seen him jailed for more than 1,200 days despite rulings for his release by both Turkish courts and the European Court of Human rights.