Turkish prosecutors contradict each other on Saturday Mothers vigils

Two Turkish prosecutors have made contradicting decisions concerning separate but identical protest vigils held by the Saturday Mothers activist group, with one prosecutor deciding not to prosecute and the other demanding penalties, the T24 news website reported on Thursday.

The prosecutor who dropped the case was investigating the group’s 959th weekly vigil, while the one who pressed charges was working on the 950th.

The Saturday Mothers are accused of violating the Law on Meetings and Marches and are now facing penalties stipulated by the law as well as a potential ban on engaging in any political activity.

According to a monitoring report jointly released by the Memory and Peace Studies, the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), Amnesty International and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), the Saturday Mothers did not resist when law enforcement handcuffed and detained them during the 950th vigil.

Another contradiction was that the prosecutor who sought penalties for the 950th vigil previously decided not to prosecute participants of the 941st, citing fundamental rights as protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, the Turkish Constitution and Supreme Court of Appeals precedent.

For the 950th vigil, the first hearing of the trial will be held in İstanbul on February 27.

A Constitutional Court ruling in November 2022 found law enforcement’s obstruction of the group’s weekly vigils in contravention of the right to peaceful gathering and demonstration.

In recent months, however, Turkish courts have intensified their non-compliance with Constitutional Court jurisdiction and orders, causing one of the most serious judicial crises in the country’s history.

Saturday Mothers are a group of activists seeking the fate of loved ones who disappeared in police custody in the 1980s and ’90s and demanding accountability for the disappearances.

The group has been holding weekly sit-ins at İstanbul’s historic Galatasaray Square since 1995 and has repeatedly faced state repression including police brutality and abusive prosecution.

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