The Constitutional Court of Turkey has ruled that the violent police obstruction of Labor Day gatherings in İstanbul’s historic Taksim Square in 2014 and 2015 violated the constitutional right to demonstrate, the Gazete Duvar news website reported on Friday.
The case was brought by DİSK and KESK, the two labor unions that organized the demonstrations.
While the court confirmed that the applicants’ right to protest was violated, it dismissed part of the complaint concerning the alleged violation of the prohibition of mistreatment on the grounds that it was “baseless.”
One of İstanbul’s major gathering places, Taksim Square is highly symbolic for leftist groups as the scene of a Labor Day massacre in 1977 in which more than 30 people were killed.
Labor Day is observed on May 1 in Turkey, and labor unions often choose Taksim to mark it.
In recent years Turkish authorities have frequently restricted outdoor gatherings, with the police, gendarmerie and other security forces regularly intervening in protests, marches and other gatherings.
The interventions often result in the detention of numerous protesters, most of whom are usually released shortly afterward and some of whom face subsequent prosecution.
Police violence is particularly visible in celebratory or commemorative occasions capable of galvanizing anti-government sentiment, such as International Women’s Day, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, LGBT Pride Week and Newroz, a spring festival culturally significant for the country’s Kurdish minority.
Some of these interventions involve disproportionate use of force by the police as well as subsequent mistreatment in custody.