Gezi Park detainees to finally get day in court

This weekend, the Istanbul election do-over will provide a vital test for Turkey’s democratic institutions. The assessment will continue on Monday, when the nation’s judiciary will be put in the spotlight with the start of the much-awaited Gezi trials.

Sixteen people are facing life imprisonment without parole for allegedly organizing and financing the 2013 Istanbul Gezi Park protests. Among them are the philanthropist Osman Kavala, who has been in pretrial detention since November 2017, and Yigit Aksakoglu, an early childhood education advocate who’s been jailed for more than seven months.

657-page indictment issued on Feb. 20 charged the defendants with orchestrating a plot to overthrow the Turkish government through the Gezi protests, which spread across the nation after peaceful demonstrators tried to preserve a green space in central Istanbul in 2013. The defendants have denied the allegations and human rights advocates have criticized the indictment for containing evidence they claim does not amount to reasonable grounds for incrimination.

“It seems to be a politically motivated trial,” Emma Sinclair-Webb, the Turkey director for Human Rights Watch, told Al-Monitor. “The prosecutors provided all these phone calls, photographs and hundreds of intercepted conversations whose significance isn’t clear. … So you get this mass of evidence that’s not evidence at all.”

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