Crowds anticipated in Taksim at Gezi anniversary
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
ISTANBUL - Taksim Solidarity, an umbrella group of protest movements involved with 2013’s Gezi Park protests, said on Tuesday in a press conference held in Istanbul that they would be at squares across Turkey on May 31, one year after the Gezi Park protests, but added that they are “not calling for demonstrations.”
"We will be at the squares in order to remind everyone that we have not abandoned our demands and gains to free our squares, parks, streets and lives," said Mucella Yapici, a spokesperson for Taksim Solidarity.
The Gezi Park protests began as a small environmental demonstration in the summer of 2013 and mushroomed into nationwide anti-government protests. The protests erupted after the government moved in May to replace part of Gezi Park at the heart of Istanbul with a shopping mall.
"Those who resorted to violence and caused thousands of people to be wounded and 11 people to be killed -- these have not been punished and discharged from their position so far. All of them should be punished and should resign from their posts. Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdogan] is among them," Yapici claimed.
Yapici also called for the use of tear gas by police to be banned and for all those who were taken into custody during the summer protests to be released, with no investigations opened against them.
After the protests, Istanbul Governorate closed Gezi Park due to security concerns after thousands of people poured into it. The leafy park reopened on July 8, but this move was followed by further violent protests.
Saying that not only streets and squares were closed, but also all Turkish cities, the Taksim Solidarity spokesman also demanded removal "of all the obstacles and violence standing in the way of freedom of expression."
Ali Cerkezoglu, General Secretary of Istanbul’s Medical Association and a member of Taksim Solidarity, expressed his regret over those who died or were wounded during the Gezi Park protests. "We will continue our struggle until those who are responsible [for the violence] are brought to account. Our duty is not just to treat the people who are wounded by police violence... We demand all of our rights peacefully and through democratic ways," he added.
-The investigation of protesters-
On Tuesday, Istanbul's 55th Criminal Court of First Instance issued an arrest warrant for 47 defendants relating to investigations regarding Gezi Park protests.
The hearing saw 255 defendants, including 7 foreign nationals, prosecuted for their role in the demonstrations between June 1 and August 4 2013, was attended by 16 defense attorneys as well as the lawyers from Turkey's Ministry of Health.
According to the indictment, 255 defendants are charged with "resisting police," "vandalism," "protecting criminals," and "harming the environment." Out of the 255 charged, 47 failed to enter pleas in defense, and as such are charged with failure to offer defense.
The hearing was postponed to November 14.
Berkin Elvan, a 15-year-old Istanbul teenager, was badly injured during the summer protests and died in March 2014 after being in a coma for 269 days.
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