Twelve Turkish bar associations denounce practices in Gezi trial

Twelve Turkish bar associations said in a joint statement on Wednesday that they had been losing hope of a fair trial in a case related to the 2013 Gezi protests, the biggest anti-government demonstration in Turkey since the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002. 

Turkish businessman and civil society activist Osman Kavala and 15 other suspects, including actors, lawyers, activists and journalists, face a total of 47,520 years in prison on charges of organising the protests in an attempt to violently overthrow the government.

Kavala, who was detained in November 2017, is the only suspect held in prison. 

“Our hope for a ‘fair trial’ has been diminishing day by day,” the bar associations said, adding that the trial was based on investigations once conducted by prosecutors linked to the Gülen movement, a religious group the Turkish government accuses of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016. 

The Turkish authorities have violated defendants’ right to a fair trial several times by abruptly changing the judges overseeing the trial, the bar associations said. 

The panel of judges violated the suspects’ rights again by accepting testimony from a witness unlawfully without the presence of defence lawyers on the grounds that the witness’s life was in danger, the bar associations said.

“The inexplicable behaviour of the panel means an attempt to criminalise defence and to exclude it as well as an attempt to eliminate the roles of lawyers in prosecution,” the bar associations said. 

Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir bar associations are among those who signed the joint statement.

The next hearing of the Gezi trial will be held on Jan. 28.