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Turkey

Gezi Case: Turkey Must Reject Conspiracy Theory As Justice

The indictments filed against prominent liberal figures after the 2013 Gezi park protests show the government doesn't care about defending the constitution.

Police and protestors gather at Gezi park
Police and protestors gather at Gezi park
Örsan K. Öymen

-OpEd-

ISTANBUL — The current round of indictments prepared by Turkish prosecutors regarding the "Gezi Events' of 2013 shows that the time for judicial scandals and slanderous conspiracy theories are far from over. The criminal charges filed against businesspeople, artists and journalists — including such prominent names as Osman Kavala, Mehmet Ali Alabora and Can Dündar —reminds us of other troubling episodes from the past such as "Ergenekon" and "Sledgehammer." It proves that the methods of the Fethullah Gülen movement (which dominated Turkey's judiciary from 2008-2013 ) has since been fully adopted by the ruling Justice and Development Party — even if their onetime alliance with Gülen's movement is long over.

Journalist Can Dündar speaking during press conference — Photo: Arne Immanuel BäNsch/DPA/ZUMA

The indictment in question is built on a completely false paradigm: identifying the right to assembly and protest as a crime despite the plain fact that Article 34 of the Turkish Constitution grants that very right. Millions of people had attended these protests in and around Istanbul's Gezi park, according to numbers provided by the Interior Ministry. Police records show a very small percentage of those in attendance committed vandalism or threw stones at police. The "Gezi" was a legal and peaceful protest, by no means a violent movement to overthrow the government. On the contrary, the security forces were the perpetrators of violence, causing multiple deaths and thousands of injuries of peaceful demonstrators.

The aim is to minimize the reaction from the leftist front.

The indictment turns a blind eye to these basic facts, twists historical events and attempts to create fictional criminals through lies and slander. It is a particularly sinister approach. Although millions of people from different ideologies attended these protests, the indictment focuses on the people who identify as "liberals." The aim of this action is to minimize the reaction from the leftist front, especially from supporters of the main opposition, the Republican People's Party (CHP). By doing so, prosecutors aim to criminalize "Gezi" as a "liberal" criminal action. However, the "liberals' were a minor group at the protests, which would not have spread across the whole country without the involvement of CHP voters.

The indictment is thus built around Osman Kavala, who is not close to the CHP, the Atatürk revolutions or the left. People who identify as leftists or Atatürk-inspired patriots should not fall into this trap, even if they are political rivals of the liberals. The Communist Party of Turkey made the right call after the indictment was announced, declaring that they stand by their participation at the "Gezi" events. The CHP and other leftist groups should follow their example, and publicly reaffirm the constitutional right to participate in such protests.

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