Gezi victim Berkin Elvan’s parents appear in court on Erdoğan insult charges

The parents of a teenager who was struck in the head with a tear gas canister fired by a police officer during the anti-government Gezi Park protests in İstanbul in 2013 and subsequently succumbed to his injuries appeared at an İstanbul court on Thursday on charges of insulting the president, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Mezopotamya news agency.

Gülsüm and Sami Elvan, the parents of Berkin Elvan, face charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan due to their remarks holding Erdoğan responsible for the killing of their son.

Berkin Elvan died on March 11, 2014, after remaining in a coma for 269 days. He was 14 when the police officer shot him in the head with a tear gas canister and 15 when he passed away.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker and human rights activist Sezgin Tanrıkulu attended Thursday’s hearing to extend his support to the Elvan family.

In their defense statements, both Sami and Gülsüm Elvan said they stood by the remarks that were considered an “insult” of Erdoğan.

“Erdoğan, who was prime minister at the time, said he gave the order to kill [related to Berkin’s death] and stood behind his decision. I also stand behind my remarks,” said the father.

Berkin’s mother said her son was 14 years old when he was targeted by the police officer and was still labelled a terrorist by Erdoğan despite his age.

“He made the crowds boo by calling him [Berkin] a terrorist. There was no insult in my remarks. It was he who insulted us,” said the mother.

“The real murderer [of Berkin] was the then-prime minister and current president. We know this because he said, ‘I gave the order, my police have written a heroic epic [in suppressing the Gezi protests].’ … I don’t care if they hang me here, but no one can deny the fact that the murderer of my child is the prime minister of the time, who is now the president,” Sami Elvan was quoted in the indictment as saying, referring to Erdoğan.

“Do you remember how you booed me at a public rally? … I won’t forget it, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. … He was 14 years old when you shot him. … He was branded a terrorist. Is there a better terrorist than you?” Gülsüm Elvan was also quoted as saying, addressing the president.

The mother, who held Erdoğan responsible for Berkin’s death because he ordered the police to use excessive force to suppress the protests, was attacked by Erdoğan at a public rally in 2014. Erdoğan branded Berkin a terrorist and let the crowd boo the woman.

On June 18, 2021 the İstanbul 17th High Criminal Court sentenced Fatih Dalgalı, a police officer and the only suspect in Elvan’s death, to life in prison on charges of “premeditated murder,” but the sentence was reduced to 16 years, eight months because the murder was committed on “eventual intent.”

The court did not arrest Dalgalı but placed him under judicial supervision and imposed a travel ban. Dalgalı will start serving his time if the Supreme Court of Appeals upholds his sentence.

The mass protests that rocked the country in 2013 started over plans to demolish Gezi Park, one of the rare green spaces in central İstanbul. The anger quickly spiraled into broader protests against Erdoğan over his authoritarian policies. The Erdoğan government’s harsh response to the Gezi protestors left 11 people dead and thousands injured.

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