Turkish court acquits suspects in death of Gezi protester

A Turkish court on Monday upheld the verdict to acquit two suspects in the 2013 killing of a person in Istanbul who was participating in the nationwide protests that rocked the government that year, secularist daily Cumhuriyet reported.

Mehmet Ayvalıtaş was killed after a car drove into the crowd during the Gezi Park protests, which started as a small sit-in demonstration against a move to demolish one of Istanbul’s few remaining green spaces.

The demonstrations later grew into nationwide mass protests after Turkish police’s harsh interventions against the demonstrators, snowballing into the biggest anti-government demonstrations since Erdoğan’s AKP came to power in 2002. Eleven people were killed and more than 8,000 injured in the ensuing violence as police heavily intervened on protesters around the country.

An Istanbul court acquitted Mehmet Görkem Demirbaş, the driver of the vehicle that hit Ayvalıtaş, and Cengiz Aktaş, its owner, six-and-a-half years after the trial started, Cumhuriyet said.

The court refused the Ayvalıtaş family’s lawyers demands to detain Demirbaş and Aktaş during the trial.

So far, of the 11 people killed, only five suspects have stood trial for murder. Other investigations into possible suspects have not resulted in a single indictment, while one suspect has been fined and other cases still continue.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calls the Gezi Park protests a foreign-backed, and Turkish prosecutors have pressed charges against 16 civil society figures accused of attempting to overthrow the government.