One of the accused speaking at the latest court session of the ‘Gezi trial’ in Turkey said she felt like a bit player taking part in a play, the end of which had already been determined.
Mücella Yapıcı, an architect and the secretary general of the Environmental Impact Assessment Department of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects, spoke on Monday at the hearing session of the trial in an Istanbul court.
“We are like the bit players in a play staged here, with its end long scripted,” she said, and continued, addressing the judges:
“You know why the events started? It wasn’t even because of the construction project we all had objected to. They had forgotten to include a path for the pedestrians in that project. They then tried to open up a space for that path by cutting down trees and destroying a part of the park one night. The people called us, and we went there. We asked the officials if they had permission to do what they were doing. They did not. So we objected. They still tried to continue with this lawless deed. They tried to cut down the trees. I almost died because I stood against them. They surrounded me from all sides because I hugged a tree. An incredible amount of tear gas was used. They tried to torch the tents while there were young people inside them.”
A short history of Gezi trials
The recent court sessions of the trial are actually part of the third attempt to punish some of the leading figures in the historical Gezi protests that occurred between the 28th of May and the end of August in 2013.
The protests attracted millions of people when a small group of nature activists who tried to prevent the cutting down of trees in the Gezi Park near Istanbul’s Taksim Squre were subjected to brutal police violence.
While at least 3.5 million people of various political affiliations actively participated in the protests, 11 individuals were killed and over 8,100 injured due to police violence.
The first trial started in March 2014 and resulted in the acquittal of the accused in February 2015. A second trial followed in 2019 which resulted with an acquittal for a second time in February 2020 due to ‘lack of solid evidence’ against the accused.
However, upon an appeal of the prosecutor an appeals court ruled for a re-trial while a case against human rights defender Osman Kavala was tagged on to the case in February 2021 with the third round of trials.
Why it is so critical for Turkey
Kavala has been incarcerated since October 2017 and is kept in jail despite a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that he should be released immediately.
What makes the trial of Kavala a very critical issue for Turkey is the fact that the Council of Europe’s (CoE) Committee of Ministers decided on 3 December 2021 that CoE member Turkey’s non-compliance with the ECHR ruling would be referred to the Court in the case that Turkey did not submit a concise view on this by 19 January 2022.
The CoE Committee of Ministers’ decision actually signifies that infringement proceedings over Turkey’s failure to comply with the ECHR order have began, and which may lead to sanctions against Turkey including termination of its membership.
The court’s possible rejection of Kavala’s release today will practically mean that the case will be referred to ECHR by the CoE in a very short period of time.