Reactions to indictment of 16 over Gezi Park protests

The Istanbul 30th Criminal Court’s accepted the prosecution’s indictment charging 16 people with trying to bring down the Turkish government in the 2013 Gezi Park protests on Monday afternoon.

Within hours, social media users and news sites poring over the details had shared their initial reactions on some of the remarkable assertions in the 657-page document.

The 16 defendants are accused of planning and organising the protests, which began as a small-scale demonstration against plans to demolish a city-centre park, in an attempt to “force the government to resign or call early elections” and, failing that, “to prepare the grounds for a civil war or coup”.

The prosecutor is seeking aggravated life sentences for the 16 defendants, including businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala, journalist Can Dündar, actors Memet Ali Alabora and Pınar Alabora, and Mücella Yapıcı, city planner Tayfun Kahraman, and lawyer Can Atalay.

The list of plaintiffs, meanwhile, includes the entire cabinet of the 61st government of Turkey, which ruled the country at the time of the protests, as well as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who led the Justice and Development Party government at the time as prime minister.

Prosecutors have followed Erdoğan’s lead by alleging that Hungarian businessman George Soros was behind the protests, which the indictment says took place with the involvement of Soros’s Open Society Foundation. Hakan Altınay and Gökçe Yılmaz, former directors of the foundation, are among the defendants.

“The person (Kavala) who financed terrorists during the Gezi incidents is already in prison. And who is behind him? The famous Hungarian Jew Soros. This is a man who assigns people to divide nations and shatter them. He has so much money and this is how he spends it,” Erdoğan said last November.

The indictment echoed Erdoğan’s words, stating that since Soros’s influence on the Gezi Park protests had been “widely discussed in the press and in political and academic circles, it is understood that (Soros) was active in the Gezi Uprising as he was in uprisings in other countries.”

The prosecutors added that OTPOR, a Serbian organisation described in the indictment as “professional exporters of revolution”, had come to Turkey with funding from “the West” to incite the protests.

As Turkish journalist Nevşin Mengü noted, OTPOR was originally formed in the late 1990s to protest the authoritarian rule of former President of Yugoslavia Slobodan Milošević, who died in 2006 while on trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity including genocide.

At one point, Turkish secularist news site Diken’s Kemal Göktaş noted, the indictment goes out of its way to praise the Arab Spring protests that swept across the Middle East starting in 2011 as a “people’s movement.”

The Gezi Park protests, on the other hand, are likened to demonstrations that preceded the coup d’etat against former Turkish Prime Minister Adnan Menderes in 1960.

The indictment says the protests planned according to the ideas set out by Gene Sharp, a theorist of non-violent resistance who died last year, Turkish-Armenian news site Agos reported.

In fact, it specifically cites the non-violent manner of the protests as a part of the criminal plan, referencing the jokes that circulated among protesters, concerts by Turkish and international musicians in support of the protesters, and other forms of artistic and cultural support, journalist Candan Coşkun reported.

And, while the protesters’ handing out of flowers to police officers at the demonstrations was cited as part of the plan to bring down the government, there is no mention in the indictment of the deaths and thousands of injuries caused directly or indirectly by violent police interventions.

Coşkun also noted that police officers who have been dismissed for their alleged membership of the outlawed Gülen religious movement have been included in the indictment as informants.

Çiğdem Mater Utku, Handan Meltem Arıkan, Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu, İnanç Ekmekçi (Mısırlıoğlu), Mine Özerden, Yiğit Aksakoğlu, and Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi are the remaining names prosecutors asked to be sentenced for their role in the Gezi protests.