Court refuses to release Osman Kavala, the only jailed defendant in the case, who has been behind bars for the past 2 years
CANSU PİŞKİN, ISTANBUL
The third hearing in the Gezi Park trial, where 16 defendants including businessman Osman Kavala, city planners, lawyers, journalists, directors, actors and civil society representatives, face aggravated life imprisonment for “attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey” took place on 8 October 2019 at a courtroom on the compounds of Silivri Prison.
The 16 defendants in the case are businessman and Anadolu Kültür Inc. chairman Osman Kavala, journalist Can Dündar, actor Memet Ali Alabora, actress Ayşe Pınar Alabora, film producer Çiğdem Mater, NGO directors Ali Hakan Altınay and Gökçe Yılmaz, architect Ayşe Mücella Yapıcı, playwright Handan Meltem Arıkan, activists Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu, İnanç Ekmekçi, Mine Özerden, Yiğit Aksakoğlu, city planner and lawyer Tayfun Kahraman, lawyer Can Atalay and businessman Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi.
Issuing its interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of Kavala’s pre-trial detention and scheduled the next hearing, where three witnesses of the prosecution will testify, for 24-25 December 2019.
P24 monitored the hearing, where enhanced security measures were implemented. Numerous gendarmerie officers along with metal barricades were placed at the entrance of the building. The hearing began approximately an hour later than scheduled.
Kavala was accompanied by gendarmerie into the courtroom. For the duration of the hearing, 10 or so gendarmerie officers sat around Kavala. Besides the ones encircling him, there were about 100 gendarmerie soldiers in the courtroom.
Undetained defendants Çiğdem Mater, Yiğit Aksakoğlu, Mücella Yapıcı, Tayfun Kahraman, Can Atalay, Mine Özerden, Ali Hakan Altınay and Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi, and defense lawyers were also in attendance.
A slide show featuring footage such as the toppling of the municipal vehicles during the Gezi protests was screened on loop in the courtroom all through the hearing. The presiding judge questioned nine defendants who were present in the courtroom during the daylong hearing.
In his questions the presiding judge called Gezi “an uprising” and the ones who attended the events “vandals.”
Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Deputies Züleyha Gülüm, Hüda Kaya, Filiz Kerestecioğlu, Dilşad Canbaz and Garo Paylan, Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputies Sera Kadıgil, Sezgin Tanrıkulu and Ali Şeker, CHP İstanbul Provincial Chairperson Canan Kaftancıoğlu, Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK) Chairperson Arzu Çerkezoğlu, President of the Istanbul Bar Association Mehmet Durakoğlu, representatives from the Consulates General of Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Canada, Ireland, France and the US, representatives from the Swiss, Irish and Danish Embassies, and representatives from Amnesty International, Article 19, and the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales also monitored the hearing.
At the end of the second hearing held on 18 July 2019, a second court panel was designated to the 30th High Criminal Court of Istanbul and the first panel was assigned to oversee the Gezi Park trial. The presiding judge who had sought Kavala’s release under house arrest was assigned to the second panel.
The hearing began with the new presiding judge of the panel, Galip Mehmet Perk, warning the audience that if they applauded or made noise, they would be removed from the courtroom. Also upon the request of the court panel not wanting to be depicted, the sketch artists were asked to leave the courtroom.
Then the presiding judge announced that the court would hear Ercan Orhan Aydın, a former Istanbul Police Department employee who was dismissed after the 15 July 2016 coup attempt, as the prosecution’s witness. The connection could not be established due to a technical error with the video-conferencing system SEGBIS.
Instead, the presiding judge interrogated Kavala about his associations with organizations engaged in civil activities, upon which Kavala reiterated his statement that he had not been engaged in movements related to Gezi before the event occured and he had not provided any financial assistance to groups. When questioned about a play called “Mi Minör” that was claimed to be one of the inspirations for the Gezi Park protests in the indictment, Kavala responded that he knew nothing about the play. Kavala also told the court that no one had invited him to participate in the events, he simply happened to witness it and join since his office was located near Gezi Park.
Kavala told the court that none of the allegations in the indictment were based on concrete evidence. Reminding the court about the dissenting opinion by the President of the Constitutional Court Zühtü Arslan, Kavala asserted that the elements of the alleged crime were not present. Kavala requested to be acquitted. He asked the court to bring an end to the discrimination against him and his unlawful detention.
The court questioned Mücella Yapıcı next. Yapıcı said that the phone recordings were obtained illegally and that she did not accept the indictment. Yapıcı told the court that even though the Taksim Solidarity Platform had won the legal battle against the planned construction project in Gezi Park, bulldozers were brought to the park. “This mindset, as well as police brutality was what drew the people to the Gezi Park,” Yapıcı said. “It was the police who committed the unlawfulness. We were defending the law, in a completely peaceful way. However, the security forces disregarded the law and the state accepted this. Fethullahist police officers were the ones who did this,” Yapıcı said.
The court next questioned Ali Hakan Altınay, who was the President of the Board of Directors of Açık Toplum Vakfı (Open Society Foundation) from 2011 to February 2013, about the structure of the foundation.
The presiding judge then questioned Mine Özerden about the gas masks they allegedly provided to the protestors.
Addressing the court next, Can Atalay pointed out that a new panel to be appointed to the case was unlawful. Asserting that the Taksim Solidarity Platform had filed and won a lawsuit against the demolition of Gezi Park, Atalay said they went to the park to stop the illegal construction, which had begun in spite of an administrative court ruling that ordered the suspension of the construction. “We objected to the illegal construction on 28 March 2013. On 31 May, people objected to the unlawfulness committed and came to the park,” he said.
The afternoon session resumed with the interrogation of Tayfun Kahraman. When asked about his numerous posts on social media allegedly calling people to join in the demonstrations, Kahraman said that he had mostly retweeted Twitter posts by Taksim Solidarity. Concerning his phone conversation with journalist Aslı Aydıntaşbaş, Kahraman said that he had just voiced his personal opinion to someone who had contacted him as a journalist. Kahraman explained that he represented the Chamber of City Planners in the Taksim Solidarity Platform and was issuing press statements. When the presiding judge asked about the vandalism that occurred during Gezi, Kahraman said that the police brutality was as wrong as the destruction defined as vandalism.
Yiğit Aksakoğlu, who was released from pre-trial detention at the end of the first hearing, was questioned over the claims in the indictment. He told the court that all the evidence against him in the indictment was gathered after Gezi came to an end.
The court then questioned undetained defendant Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi about a phone call cited in the indictment that he had with Kavala on an alleged attempt to call for embargoing imports of tear gas to Turkey.
The court lastly questioned Çiğdem Mater about an alleged film about Gezi. Mater explained to the court that they intended to make a film about the Gezi Park protests using footage from the demonstrations but that the film never got made due to financial difficulties.
After the completion of the interrogation of the defendants, defense lawyers addressed the court, asserting that the recordings of their clients’ phone conversations were obtained illegally. Kavala’s lawyers also asserted that aşş the defendants in the case faced similar allegations but Kavala was the only jailed defendant in the case and asked the court to release him pending trial.
The prosecutor requested the court to wait for the execution of the arrest warrants against the six defendants at large, the witnesses to be forcibly brought to the next hearing, and the continuation of Kavala’s detention.
In its interim ruling, the court ruled to wait for the arrest warrants against the six defendants at large to be executed, to issue an arrest warrant against defendant İnanç Ekmekçi and for the three witnesses of the prosecution to be heard at the next hearing. Citing the type and nature of the alleged offense, the evidence against him and flight risk, the court ordered the continuation of Kavala’s detention and adjourned the trial until 24-25 December 2019.