Turkish prosecutors expand investigation into Gezi Park protests

Turkish prosecutors have invited lawyer Can Atalay and city planner Tayfun Kahraman to testify in investigations into the 2013 Gezi Park protests, the biggest anti-government demonstrations since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, news website Artı Gerçek said on Wednesday.

Thirteen people, including academics and civil society activists were detained this month in Istanbul for what the prosecutors said their role in organising the protests.

The detentions were linked to the case of Turkish philanthropist and businessman Osman Kavala, who has been held in prison for more than a year without an indictment. 

Kavala and the detainees are reportedly accused of spreading the protests to other cities in Turkey, recruiting foreign activists from abroad, and promoting the demonstrations in the media.

Twelve of the detainees were later released with travel bans, while Yiğit Aksakoğlu, a civil society professional who mostly campaigns for children rights, was officially arrested for taking part in a meeting on non-violent protests after the Gezi Park events ended.

The prosecutors also took statements of a large number of people in relation to the investigation, Artı Gerçek said.

Both Atalay and Kahraman, who are invited by the prosecutors to give statements, were members of the Taksim Solidarity group, an initiative that was founded mainly by architects and city planners to oppose the government’s plans to build a shopping mall modelled on the Ottoman military barracks that had previously stood on the site of Gezi Park.

The prosecutors also invited Ahmet Saymadı, a journalist who in late May 2013 was the first person to inform the Turkish public via Twitter that municipality workers had started cutting down trees in the Gezi Park to begin construction. 

A small number of activists later started a sit-in in the park, but the protest turned into country wide events that lasted for almost a month.