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Mar 06 2019

Turkish prosecutors target U.S. state dept. official overseeing Turkey in Gezi indictment

Prosecutors overseeing the case against 16 Turkish citizens who took part in the 2013 Gezi Park protests have included phone records of a conversation between one defendant and an individual that appears to be Yuri Kim, the currently serving director of the U.S. State Department’s Office of Southern European Affairs.

Turkey is one of the countries that falls within Kim’s purview in her current position.

The phone conversations included in the indictment are between a person identified as Yuri at the U.S. embassy and Osman Kavala, a businessman accused of attempting to overthrow the Turkish government by organising the Gezi Park protests.

Kim at the time was serving as a political counsellor at the U.S. embassy in Ankara.

In the conversations, Kim advises Kavala to ask any journalist friends he knows in Washington D.C. to bring up the protests during the State Department’s press briefing.

The indictment notes that Jen Psaki, then State Department spokesperson, made a statement during a following state department press briefing expressing support for citizens’ democratic rights to freedom of assembly and expression.

The Gezi Park protests began as small-scale demonstrations against the planned demolition of a park in central Istanbul in May 2013, and ballooned into nationwide protests against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) the following month after police cracked down on demonstrators.

The AKP says the protests were orchestrated with support from foreign civil society organisations in an attempt to bring down the Turkish government.

The indictment includes a large number of tapped phone records and other evidence involving foreign activists and officials, including a large section devoted to former European Union ambassador to Ankara Marc Pierini.

Turkish prosecutors' use of an allied country's currently serving official as evidence against Kavala could lead to a rise in tensions. Relations with the United States are already frayed by a series of disagreements, including Turkey's planned purchase of Russian S-400 missile defence systems, which a Pentagon spokesperson said earlier this week could lead to "grave consequences".