Taksim Square Protesters Charged With Terrorism, Attempting Coup

  December 27, 2013

Taksim Square Protesters Charged With Terrorism, Attempting Coup

Hundreds were indicted in Turkey for participating in the mass movement that started with Gezi Park and evolved into anti-Erdogan protests last summer
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Last week, an indictment was served against 308 of the millions who participated in the demonstrations for a wide range of charges, including belonging to a terrorist group. Lawyers who provided legal aid to protesters and advised them to remain silent during arrests are also being accused of assisting terrorist groups, and a new definition of the term “coup d’état” allows prosecutors to charge demonstrators with attempting to overthrow the government. The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky spoke to lawyer Fatma Elif Koru, and activists Hilal Atici and Olcay Bingol in Istanbul.


Taksim Square Protesters Charged With Terrorism, Attempting CoupLIA TARACHANSKY, PRODUCER: I'm Lia Tarachansky with The Real News in Istanbul, Turkey. Behind me is Gezi Park, a small green space in the larger Taksim Square. It was over this small green park that the movement that began this summer sparked.

Last week, an indictment was served against 308 of the millions who participated in the demonstrations, for a wide range of charges. In the protests, which started in May and slowed down in June, environmentalists attempted to protect this park from demolition. But when the police responded with extreme violence, the protests grew, with millions of demonstrators on the street and protests held in dozens of cities throughout Turkey. More than injured 8,000 were injured. Six demonstrators and one policeman were killed, according to the Turkish Medical Association.

Elif Koru is a lawyer who participated in the protests.

FATMA ELIF KORU, LAWYER, HUMAN RIGHTS FOUNDATION OF TURKEY: Especially the women there, they were subjected to sexual assault, because all the people who were taken into custody, they were subject to a naked search, not only in, like, official detention places, but in unofficial places. For example, [incompr.] was killed. Like, in the streets or in some places in the streets they take people and they beat very harsh, in a very harsh sense. And also, for example, they take many people during the protest into the police buses and they beat people there, they insulted, they beat, and then they left them.

So you don't have any official paper that you can use against them. They just take you, beat you, and leave you.

TARACHANSKY: Police brutality continues until today, when on December 15, forces broke up a vigil in honor of those killed during the protests.

The Real News also spoken to Olcay Bingöl, an environmentalist who participated in the Taksim Square movement since its beginning.


OLCAY BINGĂ–L, ENVIRONMENTALIST AND ACTIVIST: [incompr.] just, like, nearly 24 hours, there are hundreds of thousands of people in one day on the street.

But that commercial center was never being for the high-class people. It was always for the middle class, normal-living, the standard people.

And now you can see that the huge population of tourists, the normal shops which belongs to the small commerce, they are changing into the big brands. The shopping and the class issue started with the gentrification cleanse of the city, and especially this district.

Yeah. So this is the cinema. This was the cinema. It was huge, beautiful, traditional. You know that kind of cinemas, huge ones, beautiful, inner decoration, big screens. And now it's going to be a shopping mall as well. And just by it, that is the one. The [mir@r{n] is another shopping mall. And now we are still protesting and we never go there. And still while there is a manifestation of the street, everybody, just hundreds of thousands of people, stops there and protests that shopping mall. We're marching here, protesting here, protesting all these shopping malls.

And Gezi Park was the part of the gentrification project. The municipality had a project as to have a shopping mall in there. Everything started with three trees. They cut the three trees. And we went there to stop the work. And we were telling that this is our park, and you didn't ask us to cut those trees or just put a shopping mall here.

TARACHANSKY: So it's about people power.

BINGĂ–L: It was--exactly. We were asking the government to take into consideration that we are the people and we want to be in the decision-making process.


TARACHANSKY: Last week, Turkey's chief public prosecutor's office indicted hundreds of protesters, including seven foreign nationals. Thirty-six investigations are still continuing, based on accusations of belonging to a terrorist group and attempting to prevent the Turkish government from doing its duty under Article 10 of turkey's anti-terror law.

KORU: The government is indicting 22 lawyers, and nine of them have been under arrest. Their trial will--the first trial will begin Tuesday in Istanbul. In total, 22 lawyers who are accused of being a member of terrorist organization. They were accused of actually working on behalf of people, you know, without--like, as volunteers lawyers. For example, one of the charges against them, they say that, in the indictment, these lawyers make their clients use their right to silence. That means that they are also part of the terrorist organization that their clients might belong to.

TARACHANSKY: Only one of the killed demonstrators, a 19-year-old who has was beaten and died up to 38 days in a coma, led to a trial, set to begin in February 2014.

KORU: I have no faith in this trial, because it's--in the beginning, for example, he was killed in Eskişehir in this city. But now, for the reasons of security, the court decided to move the trial to the east of Turkey. Now you will have the difficulty to bring all the, for example, suspects, police officers to another city, or you will have difficulties to collect evidence, such as camera. You also cut down the opportunity for many people coming from other states close to Eskişehir to support the trial. I mean, they just want to have this trial in silence and finish it without any results on behalf of justice.

TARACHANSKY: Following an alleged plot by senior members of Turkey's army against the government, a recent change in the legal definition of the term coup may threaten the Gezi Park defendants. Speaking to the daily English-language Today's Zaman, lawyer Efkan Bolaç, who is defending some of the accused, says the protesters may now face charges of attempting a coup. In the Turkish Language Association's new definition, a coup is now "'... pushing a government, by exerting pressure, by means of force or democratic means, to resign, or toppling the government in a way to change the regime.'"

KORU: And you can even--you can understand understand from this, like, for example, even the press statements can be seen as an attempt to take down the government. They interpret these things very--in a very wide sense.

TARACHANSKY: But while the demonstrations die down, achievements remain, according to Hilal Atici, who joined the protests when they began.


HILAL ATICI, ACTIVIST AND NGO WORKER: The general product from Gezi was changing the rules of the game--

TARACHANSKY: In what way?

ATICI: --in Turkey. So it just changed the political scene, because before, it was, like, secular versus religious. So the whole game was around that one, whether we should have the veiled women in the university, whether we should have the--give them public--to work in the public schools. I don't know. Many things. So there was a lot of tension created around that, and this was what is on the scene.

On the deeper state, it was much more like who is going to get the power and who is going to rule the country.

Now the whole thing changed. It's not about being secular or religious. It's about freedoms.


TARACHANSKY: The government of Tayyip Erdoğan reasserted its power after the protests, when in September it brought forward the so-called democracy package before parliament. While it mostly focused on religious freedoms and the peace process with the Kurdish, the reforms it proposes include harsher sentences for protesters. One such reform allows the police to detain anyone suspected of conducting a protest for 24 hours without due process.

On Thursday, however, December 19, Erdoğan's government took a big hit when Istanbul's police chief was deposed, along with dozens of police commissioners, business people, and the sons of the ministers of interior, economy, and the environment.

The first major demonstration since the summer was held this Sunday, December 22, when thousands gathered in clinical Kadıköy Square in Istanbul. Activists reported a total media blackout of the demonstration, and police responded with tear gas and pepper spray.

I'm Lia Tarachansky with The Real News in Istanbul, Turkey.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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