Turkish unions meet Istanbul governor over rally row

Labor activists meet city authorities in crunch talks ahead of planned May 1 demonstration

Labor activists meet city authorities in crunch talks ahead of planned May 1 demonstration

ISTANBUL - A senior Turkish labor leader has said that thousands of union members are determined to celebrate International Labor Day in Istanbul's iconic Taksim Square on May 1 despite a possible ban by the authorities.

Speaking ahead of crunch talks with the city’s governor on Monday, head of the Confederation of Public Laborers' Unions, Nami Ozgen, said it was a 'must' for his members to march in Taksim as there was an emotional commitment to the square.

Ozgen told the Anadolu Agency that May 1 maintained its importance for labor activists after a 1977 May Day massacre where 36 people were killed after gunfire from unknown assailants.

The site in central Istanbul was off-limits for May Day events for over three decades. Gatherings were again permitted in 2010 but last year saw the Turkish government prevent the rally from taking place due to extensive construction work at the site.

Labor unions had insisted on marching to Taksim Square but were stopped by the security forces; unions are facing a potential ban by the authorities again this year. Chairman of the DISK labor group, Kani Beko, has already described the square a “sacred place”.

Ozgen said union members were 'insistent on using Taksim Square' for May 1 and rejected the notion of an alternative rally point, denying there was an alternate rally point planned if talks with city governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu were unsuccessful.

Unions are claiming to have the backing of a November 2012 decision by the European Court of Human Rights which said that “there has been a violation of Article 11” on freedom of assembly by the Turkish government over the case.

Officials of the Istanbul Governorship were not available for comment ahead of today's meeting with union delegates.

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