Prosecutor Huseyin Aslan, who is overseeing an investigation into the Gezi Park protests, has dropped the charges against 74 protesters who were accused of inciting violence and damaging public property.
The prosecutor stated that holding peaceful demonstrations, even if they are unauthorized, is a democratic right and any legal action against such gatherings would go against previous rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
The Gezi Park protests started on May 27, 2013, when demolition machines entered Gezi Park in Istanbul's Taksim Square as part of a government redevelopment plan to build a replica of an Ottoman-era military barracks and a mall inside the park.
The initial small, peaceful sit-in protests morphed into countrywide protests when police forcefully removed the tents of protesters who had been camping in Gezi Park for a week.
During protests on May 31, 2013, hundreds of people were detained but later released. Seventy-four protesters faced criminal charges of inciting violence and damaging public property as well as being members of terrorist organizations bent on destroying public order.
In a surprise move, Prosecutor Hüseyin Aslan dropped all charges against the 74 protesters on the grounds that the right to assembly and peaceful protest is a universal one.
He also argued that even though the demonstration was not authorized by officials, attending a protest does not constitute a crime, saying that defendants in the case had exercised their fundamental rights by joining the protests.
Among other reasons, the prosecutor also underlined that the protests took place in demonstration against the redevelopment of Gezi Park, which was also rejected by an Istanbul court. Aslan also highlighted the fact that none of the defendants in the case were involved in a crime when making his decision to drop the case.
At the beginning of December, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office submitted an indictment regarding the Gezi Park protests to an Istanbul court. The indictment lists 255 defendants, seven of whom are foreign nationals.
CihanGüncelleme Tarihi: 17 Ocak 2014, 11:19