Police clashed with protesters around Istanbul’s main Taksim Square on Tuesday and 170 people were arrested as crowds gathered to mark the anniversary of nationwide anti-government demonstrations that began nine years ago in nearby Gezi Park, Mezopotamya Agency reported.
Detainees were taken to the police headquarters, where lawyers reported hearing “sounds of torture”.
“There were detainees in a locked room chanting, ‘Human dignity will prevail over torture!’ . We banged on the door, police chiefs banged on the door, but the officers inside did not open it, and we kept hearing sounds of torture,” lawyer Ezgi Önalan told reporters.
The 2013 demonstrations were the biggest popular challenge to the rule of then Prime Minister Erdoğan. The Gezi protests started over government plans to demolish the small park of the same name, and when they were met with police brutality, quickly snowballed into a general objection to Turkey’s decline into authoritarianism. Over several months, some four million people took to the streets in 80 out of Turkey’s 81 provinces.
Last month, a Turkish court sentenced eight people to imprisonment, including the philanthropist Osman Kavala, finding them guilty of organising and financing the Gezi protests.
Taksim Solidarity, a loosely connected group of activists who represented the protesters in dealings with the government, called for a gathering outside the nearby Chamber of Mechanical Engineers on the anniversary of the start date. The group read a press statement and held a vigil for eight people who lost their lives during the protests. They also carried pictures of the people sentenced to imprisonment.
MPs from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) also attended the commemoration.
When the group started to march towards Gezi Park, police cut them off and used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. There were small-scale clashes in the area as people attempted to reach the square.
Police officers battered a large number of demonstrators, including Ahmet Şık, a TİP MP.
Detainees were released on Wednesday morning.