Hundreds protest Turkey convictions of rights activists

1. Turkey
Demonstrators carrying the banner “We are defending Gezi” gather in Ulus Square as they protest against the prison sentence given to the civil society leader Osman Kavala by the Turkish courts, in Ankara on April 26 2022. (Photo: AFP)
ISTANBUL, Turkey — Hundreds of Turks gathered near Istanbul’s iconic Taksim square on Tuesday a day after a Turkish court handed heavy jail sentences to eight rights activists over 2013 anti-government protests.اضافة اعلان

Around 400 protesters shouted slogans: “Everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance!” and “This is only the beginning, the struggle will continue!” — echoing the popular taglines of the Gezi park demonstrations back in 2013.

A Turkish court on Monday sentenced leading rights activist Osman Kavala to life in prison on highly controversial charges of attempting to topple then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government during the 2013 protests. 

The court also jailed seven other defendants for 18 years each on the charge of aiding the attempt to overthrow the government.

The 2013 protests were sparked by government plans to demolish Gezi park, situated at Taksim square, and grew into a broader movement against Erdogan’s rule.

“The decision in the Gezi trial is a punishment aimed at democracy. It does not recognize the rule of law,” said Akif Burak Atlar, city planner and representative of Taksim Solidarity, a voluntary platform aimed at stopping Erdogan’s building plan in Gezi park in 2013.

“It doesn’t matter how many we are today. This is a matter that concerns the will of millions who joined Gezi protests. We reject this (court) ruling,” he told AFP.

Protesters who gathered under heavy police presence peacefully dispersed, according to AFP reporters on the ground.

Some 350 protesters gathered in the capital Ankara.

Monday’s ruling sparked uproar among rights advocates as well as Turkey’s Western allies including the US, France and Germany.

The US said it was “deeply troubled” by Kavala’s conviction while Germany demanded his “immediate release.”

France on Tuesday condemned the life sentence, saying Kavala’s detention violated Turkey’s international obligations.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag dismissed the international criticism, saying neither the US nor any other country has the right to say anything about Turkey’s judicial process.

“They should mind their own business,” he added.

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