Press release, 12 June 2014
Turkey must abandon ‘show trial’ against Gezi Park protest organizers
Turkey must abandon a politically motivated show trial of a group of peaceful activists charged with organizing “unlawful” protests that swept the country a year ago, said Amnesty International.
Members of the Taksim Solidarity group, whose trial in Istanbul begins today, face up to 15 and a half years in jail.
“This is a vindictive, politically motivated show trial without a shred of evidence of actual crimes. It should be stopped at the first hearing,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey.
“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 organizes protests against government policies.”
Taksim Solidarity is a coalition of more than 100 organizations 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 peacefuldemonstrations 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.
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 organization”, and risk a jail term of up to 15 and a half years.
“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,” said Andrew Gardner.
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 unauthorized demonstration” under the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations.
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.
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 International has begun an international solidarity campaign with Taksim Solidarity defendants on iamtaksim.tumblr.com