Turkish appeals court upholds sentences of Kavala, 7 others in Gezi trial

2013 Gezi Park demonstrations

A Turkish appellate court on Wednesday upheld the conviction of eight defendants for involvement in an attempt to overthrow the government of then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during the 2013 Gezi Park protests in İstanbul, Deutsche Welle (DW) Turkish service reported.

The appellate court ruled that the April verdict “complied with the law.”

Osman Kavala, a prominent businessman and philanthropist, was sentenced to life in prison for “attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey.”

The seven other defendants — Mücella Yapıcı, Çiğdem Mater Utku, Ali Hakan Altınay, Mine Özerden, Şerafettin Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman and Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi — were each sentenced to 18 years for “aiding and abetting the attempted overthrow of the government.”

The 2013 Gezi Park demonstrations, which took place in reaction to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s attempt to destroy one of the few green spaces left in İstanbul, quickly turned into a nationwide protest against the authoritarian policies of then-prime minister and current president Erdoğan. Eleven protestors died and thousands more were injured as they were brutally suppressed by the police on his instructions.

The defense can still appeal the case at Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals.

Speaking to DW, Evren İşler, one of the lawyers in the case, said, “The decision has nothing to do with the law. Therefore, it is not possible to interpret this decision legally.”

On February 18, 2020, all defendants in the Gezi Park case, which was started due to the Gezi Park protests, were acquitted. With the acquittal rendered by the İstanbul 30th High Criminal Court, Kavala, the only detainee in the case, was arrested due to another investigation while waiting for his release from prison.

Kavala, who had been behind bars since October 18, 2017, was acquitted in February 2020 of charges of attempting to overthrow the government through involvement in the 2013 Gezi Park protests.

Kavala was rearrested the same day of his release on charges related to a 2016 abortive putsch in Turkey in a move described by his lawyers as a tactic to circumvent the court’s 2019 ruling to free him.

After the prosecution appealed the acquittal, the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the İstanbul District Court overturned the acquittal of the district court on January 22, 2021. The retrial ended on April 25 of this year. The court sentenced jailed Kavala to life imprisonment and the seven other defendants to 18 years in prison each.

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