Parents of Berkin Elvan to stand trial for insulting President Erdoğan

The parents of Berkin Elvan, a teenager who was struck in the head with a gas canister fired by a police officer during the anti-government Gezi Park protests in İstanbul in 2013 and subsequently succumbed to his injuries, have been charged with insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

According to the Duvar news website, Gülsüm and Sami Elvan will stand trial starting on January 20, 2022 for statements they made about the death of their child after court hearings.

Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey, according to the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Whoever insults the president can face up to four years in prison, a sentence that can be increased if the crime was committed through the mass media.

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.

Sami Elvan said after a hearing on September 23, 2020 that the prime minister at the time of the protests was responsible for the death of his son. “The then-prime minister, who is now president, said he ordered the police to use excessive force. I said this in court and I will say it again,” he said. “I am not afraid of being prosecuted, I died with the death of my son. The real killer of my son is the president.”

Gülsüm Elvan asked on January 29, 2021 whether Erdoğan remembered her son and all the other people who were killed by the police during the protests. “My son was only a child,” she said. “He was only 14, and you called him a terrorist. You are the terrorist! You made people boo me during your rallies. I want my child back, Erdoğan. You ordered his death. Give me my child back.”

The prosecutor said calling Erdoğan a terrorist and the killer of Berkin Elvan were insults to the president.

According to the Justice Ministry, a total of 160,169 investigations and 35,507 cases have been launched on charges of insulting the president over the past seven years, beginning with the election of Erdoğan to the presidency in 2014 to the end of 2020.

During their interrogation at the prosecutor’s office both parents said they had not insulted Erdogan but criticized his actions as prime minister during the protest. They added that their only goal was to find justice for their son.

The family’s lawyer, Can Atalay, had previously said that in the years that have elapsed since the incident, every effort has been made to ensure the suspect does not receive any punishment at all.

In January a Turkish prosecutor demanded a lesser sentence for the police officer who caused the death of Berkin Elvan. The prosecutor, newly appointed under the influence of Erdoğan, announced his final opinion on the killing of Elvan at the 18th hearing in İstanbul.

Revising the indictment after he was appointed in December, the prosecutor demanded that police officer Fatih Dalgalı, the sole suspect in the case, be convicted of “negligent manslaughter.”

The previous prosecutor’s original indictment had accused the police officer of “killing with oblique intent.”

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, such as controlling the media and the judiciary. The Erdoğan government’s harsh response to the Gezi protestors left 11 people dead and thousands injured.

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