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Aggra­vat­ed per­pe­tu­ity for Osman Kavala and 18 years for 7 oth­er peo­ple accused in the Gezi trial.

Busi­ness­man and human rights defend­er Osman Kavala who was accused of “hav­ing orga­nized and financed” the 2013 Gezi demon­stra­tions has been sen­tenced to aggra­vat­ed per­pet­u­al impris­on­ment dur­ing the hear­ing on April 25 2022. Sev­en oth­er accused were sen­tenced to 18 years in prison in this same tri­al, for “aid­ing” in the com­mis­sion of this crime.

The issues con­cern­ing coun­try-wide anti-gov­ern­men­tal demon­stra­tions in 2013 were brought to tri­al again after a court of appeals had annulled last year’s acquit­tals. This new tri­al thus ren­dered ver­dicts based on a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry as char­ac­ter­iz­ing a social move­ment of protest.

The defence lawyers stat­ed that the bill of indict­ment did not con­tain any con­crete evi­dence and was based sole­ly on assump­tions expressed by the prosecutor.

One of the judges was revealed as being a for­mer poten­tial par­lia­men­tary can­di­date for the AKP Par­ty cur­rent­ly in power.

The sev­en oth­er accused were sen­tenced to 18 years impris­on­ment for hav­ing “aid­ed” Kavala in his pseu­do “con­spir­a­cy against the State”.

A call to demon­strate was raised on Tues­day April 26 for 7 PM Istan­bul time, in the Bey­oğlu neigh­bor­hood near Tak­sim, in front of the TMMOB (Union of Turk­ish engi­neers and archi­tects’ Cham­bers). The crowd was already gath­ered far before the sched­uled time in order to chant “This is just the begin­ning, the strug­gle car­ries on!”

As a reminder…

As ear­ly as in 2015, par­tic­i­pants in the “Gezi events” had already been sentenced.Dès 2015,

A new Gezi tri­al was held again begin­ning on May 21 2021 after the Court of Appeal had annulled the acquit­tals pro­nounced by the tri­bunal at the first tri­al. Incar­cer­at­ed for over 1 200 days, the busi­ness­man and defend­er of human rights Osman Kavala along with the oth­er accused appeared before the judge of Istanbul’s Crim­i­nal Court in Çağlayan for “hav­ing attempt­ed to over­throw the gov­ern­ment”. Here is a brief sur­vey of the judi­cia­ry process:

Who was being tried?

, qui ont été acquit­tés lors du pre­mier procès ; et , dont les dossiers ont été séparés, mais ont ensuite été re-fusionnés.

Osman Kavala, Mücel­la Yapıcı, Can Ata­lay, Tay­fun Kahra­man, Ali Hakan Altı­nay, Yiğit Aksakoğlu, Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi, Çiğ­dem Mater Utku and Mine Özer­den who were acquit­ted at the first tri­al; and Can Dün­dar, Mehmet Ali Alab­o­ra, Ayşe Pınar Alab­o­ra, Gökçe Tüylüoğlu, Han­dan Meltem Arıkan, Han­zade Hik­met Ger­miyanoğlu and İnanç Ekmekçi whose files had been split off but were then re-intro­duced into the main trial.

Although he had been acquit­ted at the first Gezi tri­al, Osman Kavala was kept behind bars in Silivri prison in the out­skirts of Istan­bul. Yiğit Aksakoğlu also spent 220 days behind bars for this sec­ond Gezi trial.

Who were the wronged parties?

In the pre­vi­ous Gezi tri­al where the defend­ers of rights were acquit­ted, the mem­bers of the cab­i­net of the 61st man­date, cre­at­ed in 2011, were des­ig­nat­ed as the plain­tiffs in the bill of indictment.

On the list of wronged par­ties appeared the name of that time’s Prime Min­is­ter, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the deputy Prime Min­is­ters of the time Bülent Arınç, Ali Baba­can, Beşir Ata­lay, Bekir Boz­dağ, Emrul­lah İşler and the min­is­ters of the time Binali Yıldırım, Fat­ma Şahin, Ege­men Bağış, Nihat Ergün, Faruk Çelik, Erdoğan Bayrak­tar, Ahmet Davu­toğlu, Tan­er Yıldız, Suat Kılıç, Meh­di Eker, Hay­ati Yazıcı, Muam­mer Güler, Cevdet Yıl­maz, Ömer Çelik, Mehmet Şimşek, Nabi Avcı, İsm­et Yıl­maz, Vey­sel Eroğlu, Mehmet Müezzi­noğlu, Zafer Çağlayan and Sadul­lah Ergin.

After estab­lish­ing the Par­ty of the Future, Ahmet Davu­toğlu announced he was with­draw­ing as a plain­tiff from the penal mat­ters linked  to “the crimes com­mit­ted”.

The Pres­i­dent of the DEVA par­ty, Ali Baba­can, also declared: “I am not a plain­tiff in the Gezi tri­al, nor am I inter­ven­ing in any way. Think­ing they were all wronged, the pros­e­cu­tor wrote down the names of all the gov­ern­ment mem­bers of the time.”


Bey­oğlu, , today. Image from the Twit­ter video by Ayşen Şahin @temcikterelelli

What are the charges against the accused?

In the first bill of indict­ment — a doc­u­ment of 657 pages — Gezi was defined as being “an insur­rec­tion for a coup d’état”. The accused were charged with “hav­ing orga­nized and financed the demon­stra­tions”. They were charged with “attempt­ing to over­throw the gov­ern­ment”, “mate­r­i­al dam­ages”, “dam­ages to places of wor­ship and to ceme­ter­ies”, “vio­la­tion to the law con­cern­ing firearms, knives and oth­er imple­ments”, “aggra­vat­ed pil­lag­ing” and “vio­la­tion of the law on the pro­tec­tion of cul­tur­al and nat­ur­al property.”

In annulling the acquit­tals, the court of appeal also required that a penal charge be added against the accused  stat­ing they had “vio­lat­ed bill no. 2911” con­cern­ing meet­ings and demonstrations.

Accord­ing to the bill of indict­ment, 16 accused were sep­a­rate­ly at risk of between 606 and 2 970 years of imprisonment.

The first trial

In July 2013, 26 per­sons, includ­ing Mücel­la Yapıcı of the Cham­ber of Archi­tects and Ali Çerke­zoğlu  from the Istan­bul Order of Physi­cians were arrest­ed. Although they were lib­er­at­ed after sub­mit­ting their state­ments, these defend­ers of rights were tried in March 2014 on the grounds of “found­ing and lead­ing an orga­ni­za­tion”. All the accused were acquit­ted dur­ing the tri­al that fol­lowed before Istanbul’s  33rd Crim­i­nal Court on April 29 2015.

After this, it became known that the pros­e­cu­tor Muam­mer Akkaş was con­duct­ing an inves­ti­ga­tion the per­sons on tri­al. Muam­mer Akkaş was also the per­son who had giv­en instruc­tions for phone taps on the the defend­ers of rights. How­ev­er, he was fired dur­ing an inves­ti­ga­tion of oper­a­tions con­duct­ed from Decem­ber 17 to 25 2014, and sub­se­quent­ly fled from Turkey.

Fol­low­ing on Muam­mer Akkas, Istanbul’s pros­e­cu­tor Yakup Ali Kahve­ci  pro­ceed­ed with the bill of indict­ment. Although it con­tained evi­dence gath­ered by Akkaş, the inquest was com­plet­ed in 2019; the first hear­ing occurred on June 24th of that year. Arrest­ed pend­ing his tri­al, Yiğit Aksakoğlu was freed at this hear­ing. A few days after the sec­ond hear­ing, the Coun­cil of Judges and Pros­e­cu­tors (HSK) mod­i­fied the make-up of the tri­bunal coun­cil respon­si­ble for the matter.

Con­se­quent­ly, Galip Mert Perk was named as pre­sid­ing judge and Tal­ip Ergen as a mem­ber of the board of admin­is­tra­tion. While the HSK did not mod­i­fy the appoint­ment of Ahmet Tarık Çiftçioğlu who had pro­nounced him­self in favor of “main­tain­ing the arrest” of Osman Kavala and of Yiğit Aksakoğlu, the mem­ber of the coun­cil who had expressed a dis­si­dent opin­ion was moved to anoth­er court.

A string of events and changes of judges and of mod­i­fi­ca­tions at the coun­cil of judges thus took place dur­ing the whole course of the investigation.

When exam­in­ing Osman Kavala’s indi­vid­ual appeal, the Euro­pean Court of Human Rights (ECHR)  ren­dered its judge­ment of a vio­la­tion of rights on Decem­ber 10 2019 stat­ing that Osman Kavala should be lib­er­at­ed immediately.

At the final hear­ing of this first tri­al, on Feb­ru­ary 18 2020, all of the accused, except for those who were abroad, were acquit­ted of the charges against them. Despite this acquit­tal and the ver­dict of the Euro­pean court of Human Rights, Osman Kavala was re-arrest­ed under oth­er charges.

Why are they on trial again?

Fol­low­ing the acquit­tals in the Gezi tri­al, the Pres­i­dent of Turkey and  Pres­i­dent of the Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Par­ty (AKP) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke at a Par­ty meet­ing. Tar­get­ing Kavala, he declared: “The per­son who insti­gat­ed Gezi is behind bars. They tried to acquit him through a maneu­ver.” Short­ly after this dec­la­ra­tion, the Coun­cil of judges and pros­e­cu­tors (HSK) launched an inquiry against the three judges who had been mem­bers of the coun­cil at Istan­bul 30th crim­i­nal court.

The prosecutor’s office also appealed the acquit­tals. The pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor Edip Şahin­er thus called for the annul­ment of the acquittals.

The 3rd Crim­i­nal Cham­ber of Istanbul’s region­al court of jus­tice, the court of appeals, annulled the acquit­tals ren­dered by the local tri­bunal, Istanbul’s 30th Crim­i­nal court on Jan­u­ary 22 2021. Refer­ring to the accu­sa­tions  in the bill of indict­ment, the tri­bunal jus­ti­fied its annul­ment by indi­cat­ing that some evi­dence such as “the mes­sages of the accused on social media, dec­la­ra­tions to the media and chant­ed slo­gans” had not been tak­en into account in ren­der­ing the decision.

The second trial

The final hear­ing in the sec­ond tri­al took place in two ses­sions on April 23 and 25 2022. Osman Kavala busi­ness­man and defend­er of human rights who had been kept in prison for four and a half years despite a ver­dict of the ECHR was thus sen­tenced to aggra­vat­ed per­pe­tu­ity for “attempt­ing to over­throw the gov­ern­ment” but he was acquit­ted of the charge of “spy­ing”.

Mücel­la Yapıcı, Çiğ­dem Mater, Hakan Altı­nay, Mine Özer­den, Can Ata­lay, Tay­fun Kahra­man and Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi were sen­tenced to 18 years of prison for hav­ing “aid­ed in the com­mis­sion of this crime”.


Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al has denounced the prison sen­tences in the mat­ter of the 2013 demon­stra­tions at Gezi Park.

The deci­sion announced on April 25 in the mat­ter of demon­stra­tions at the nation­al park of Gezi in 2013 pro­voked crit­i­cism from author­i­ties of the Euro­pean Union (EU), the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and of Germany.

Nacho Sanchez Amor, rap­por­teur of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment con­cern­ing Turkey and Sergey Lagodin­sky, head of the par­lia­men­tary Eu-turkey del­e­ga­tion, pub­lished a joint declaration.

Josep Bor­rell, vice-pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and high rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the EU for for­eign affairs, denounced the judg­ment in a Twit­ter post. “The sen­tenc­ing of Osman Kavala to per­pe­tu­ity by the Turk­ish tri­bunal along with the heavy prison terms for oth­er accused  dis­play max­i­mum tough­ness” he wrote.

France offi­cial­ly called for lift­ing the charges against the detainee and his imme­di­ate liberation.

The Ger­man Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs, Annale­na Baer­bock also pub­lished a writ­ten dec­la­ra­tion, stat­ing that the judg­ment was in “fla­grant con­tra­dic­tion” with the Norms of a State under the rule of law, and of Turkey’s inter­na­tion­al oblig­a­tions by virtue of its mem­ber­ship in the Coun­cil of Europe. The min­is­ter called for Kavala’s imme­di­ate liberation.

In a writ­ten dec­la­ra­tion, the spokesper­son for the US State Depart­ment, Ned Price declared that the Unit­ed States were “deeply trou­bled and dis­ap­point­ed” by the ver­dict ren­dered on  April 25 by the tri­bunal in the Gezi trial.

As we can see, while the Turk­ish regime was hop­ing that all eyes would be turned toward Ukraine and the Turk­ish President’s involve­ment in attempts at “nego­ti­a­tions”, such was not the case. Nonethe­less, one can eas­i­ly con­sid­er that these “con­dem­na­tions” of the ver­dicts will not have any con­se­quences for all that.

Ini­tial mobi­liza­tions are tak­ing place in Turkey. There is much to wager that the pseu­do oppo­si­tion prepar­ing itself for the next elec­tions will attempt to tem­per them, espe­cial­ly since the HDP Par­ty will be strong­ly opposed to this ver­dict, upset­ting the “alliances” for the next pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. A mat­ter to be fol­lowed, in oth­er words.

In the ear­ly 2000 years, there were many Turk­ish cit­i­zens who wished to “try” a new regime. They thought the old nation­al­ism would tem­per the “islamists”, once again. Instead, we now have a syn­the­sis of these two ten­den­cies pro­duc­ing this type of judg­ment assim­i­lat­ing a pop­u­lar revolt, which is what the Gezi move­ment con­sist­ed of, to a con­spir­a­cy, and sen­tences oppo­si­tion fig­ures to life impris­on­ment or sen­tences of 18 years duration.

Image, excerpt­ed from the Twit­ter video @gezisavunmasi

Translation from French by Renée Lucie Bourges

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