3 face life terms over 2013 Istanbul protests

Three defendants, on Tuesday, face life sentences for attempting to overthrow Turkey’s Government during environmental protests in Istanbul in 2013, as the clock ticks down on a landmark trial.

On Tuesday, the prosecutor was expected to make a closing statement seeking life terms with no chance of parole for philanthropist and rights defender Osman Kavala, children’s development advocate Yigit Aksakoglu and architect Mucella Yapici.

According to trial observers, out of the 16 defendants, only Kavala, 62, remains behind bars. He was brought into the courtroom at the high-security Silivri prison to a round of applause.

Meanwhile, they were to be tried for their alleged roles in the seven-year-old protests over the government’s plans to redevelop an area in central Istanbul around Taksim Square.

Police violently dispersed a peaceful sit-in to save Gezi Park from demolition where the government wanted to build a shopping centre.

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The crackdown triggered nationwide anti-government protests, also representing the largest such mobilisation against then Prime Minister Recep Erdogan.

The 657-page indictment lists Erdogan, now president, as an injured party, among others.

The court is holding its sixth hearing in the trial which started in June.

The prosecutor, who has already submitted a written statement, is also seeking 15-20 years in prison for six others, while seven defendants who left the country will be tried separately.

The accused include a film-maker, actor, city planner, novelist and lawyer.

The defence lawyers said they would ask the court for more time to prepare their pleas, but anything short of that, then a verdict could be passed.

In December, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), told Turkey to free Kavala immediately.

The outcome of this case will show the rest of the world whether respect for human rights has any part to play in the Turkish justice system.

(dpa/NAN)

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