Wrong people on trial: Gezi protester says

A 65 year old woman who is standing trial with 26 others for their participation in the Gezi protests say that the wrong people are on trial, ‘Turkish daily ‘Zaman’ reports.

Mücella Yapıcı (above), a 65 year old architect and twenty-six others, some of whom are members of Takzim Solidarity, an umbrella group incorporating tens of civil society groups unions, medical associations and engineers and architects chambers made their first appearance before a judge on Thursday.

Ms Yapıcı says that it is those who are responsible for the deaths of at least four people during last year’s government Gezi demonstrations and those who initiated the violence that hurt hundreds of protesters should be on trial instead of the demonstrators themselves.

Five of the suspects are being accused of “establishing an organization with the purpose of committing crimes,” “illegally attending assemblies and demonstrations unarmed and not dispersing despite warnings from authorities,” and “inciting the public to attend assemblies and demonstrations against the law,” facing five to 13 years’ imprisonment. The other 21 suspects stand accused of violating Turkey’s Law on Assembly and Demonstration Marches, facing between one-and-a-half years to three years’ imprisonment.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies Melda Onur and Sezgin Tanrıkulu were also at the İstanbul Courthouse on Thursday to show their support for the Gezi protesters.

The Gezi events started last year in late May as a peaceful sit-in protest against plans to obliterate Gezi Park in İstanbul’s Beyoğlu district, near Taksim Square, to erect a new shopping mall. In a matter of days, the sit-in protest ballooned into massive anti-government demonstrations across many provinces of Turkey.

Mücella Yapıcı, the secretary general of the Chamber of Architects, offered her defence statement in Thursday’s session, rejecting all the accusations levelled against her. She severely criticised the indictment that accuses the demonstrators of having formed a criminal organisation. “Taksim Solidarity came together to protect green spaces and public spaces. There is no crime or a criminal organization. On the other hand, freedom of assembly and protest is a universal right.”

She said Taksim Solidarity had criticised the new zoning plan for Beyoğlu from the start, doing its best to inform the authorities that the new plan was wrong. “Hundreds of thousands of signatures were collected and petitions of objections were given to the authorities. All authorities including İstanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş were invited to the group’s meetings and all the announcements have been public. Taksim Solidarity was founded not on May 27, 2013 [the day of the first sit-in protests at Gezi Park], but on Feb. 15, 2012.”

She also noted that the government’s plans to build a replica of an Ottoman-era barracks in the place of Gezi Park, which will serve as a shopping mall, had been cancelled by a decision of the Council of State.

“The Topçu Barracks is against the law,” she said, noting that the high judiciary has confirmed Taksim Solidarity’s arguments are right. She also said when work machines came to raze the park, the workers could produce no document proving they were authorised to build anything. She said instead of stopping the illegal construction, the police had fired tear gas at the Taksim Solidarity members trying to stop the illegal act.

She said Taksim Solidarity had staged a peaceful protest, but both the group’s members and protesters elsewhere had been met with extreme violence at the hands of the police, recalling that some protesters had been killed. “As an architect I know that Taksim Square is there for us to gather whenever we want to. Parks, especially Gezi Park, are the only spaces of refuge, the only suitable spaces for putting up tents in a city like Istanbul, where there is a high earthquake risk. We don’t understand these practices. Nowhere in the world can a park be opened or closed to public under orders from the governor. We have a park that the governor shuts and opens whenever he feels like it.”

She also said she had been mistreated by the police at the time of her detention. She said she had been informed that she was being arrested for resisting a law enforcement officer and not for establishing a criminal organization. “To what organisations do those who have killed 11 to 12-year-old children, who have injured people belong?” she asked. “I do not accept any of the accusations levelled at me or at my friends in the indictment. We appear before you being accused of a crime, but I have not committed any crime. I want my acquittal. And I want the real perpetrators to be on trial here.” Yapıcı’s statement was met with a long applause from those in the courtroom.

TTB Secretary General Ali Çerkezoğlu made his defence statement after Yapıcı, who also ripped the indictment apart, saying there was no explanation for his detention, which was over “attending a park’s inauguration.” He said the police officers behind the deadly assaults on Gezi protesters, and those who have praised and rewarded the violence, such as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who said the police force’s suppression of the incidents has been “heroic,” were continuing to live in their places.

TTB President Professor Özddemir Aktan, who made a press statement outside the courthouse, said the Gezi resistance has been firmly etched into the memory of the Turkish nation. “Similarly, this trial will not be erased from the memory of this country, because what is on trial here is freedom, peace and democracy. People who are trying to protect the environment are on trial.”

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