Yiğit Aksakoğlu is a civil society professional working on matters related to children’s rights. He worked at TESEV (Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation) and Istanbul Bilgi University’s NGO Research & Education Division. Since 2011, he has been a consultant, among others for the Turkish representative of the Dutch Bernard van Leer Foundation for early childhood development.
Yiğit Aksakoğlu was charged with facilitating the non-violent demonstrations at Gezi Park in 2013. Aksakoğlu was taken into custody and jailed on 16 November 2018. He was in pre-trial detention without an indictment until February 2019, when the Istanbul chief prosecutor finally submitted an indictment to the Court.
Of the thirteen people that were detained on 16 November 2018, only Aksakoğlu was arrested. Evidence used against him includes organising meetings, even though the precise content of these meetings was not ascertained. The Court however stated that it was convinced they were aimed at propagating and reinitiating civil disobedience and demonstrations similar to those in Gezi Park.
Due the many rights violations during the judicial process according to both Constitutional and European law, Aksakoğlu’s lawyers lodged an individual complaint to the Constitutional Court on 1 March 2019. They argued that, amongst others, his examination of arrest was conducted without a hearing and his requests for release were rejected without a justification. There is no ruling on this yet.
Aksakoğlu was placed under the ‘Gezi Park indictment’, together with fifteen others from a different case who are also being accused of facilitating the Gezi Park protests. The indictment was accepted by the Istanbul 30th Criminal Court on 4 March 2019.
The Court released Aksakoğlu on probation at the first hearing held on 24 June 2019.
The fourth hearing of the Gezi case held on 24 and 25 December 2019.
In the fifth hearing of Gezi trial, on 28 January 2020, the defending attorneys’ requests for recusation have been rejected. While the attorneys left in protest, the audience was ordered out of the court hall. The court has not released Osman Kavala despite ECHR verdict.
The prosecutor presented his opinion as to the accusations on Gezi trial to the court on February 6, 2020. He asked Yiğit Aksakoğlu, alongside with Osman Kavala and Mücella Yapıcı be penalized as per the relevant provisions in the Article 312 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) on charge of “attempting to overthrow the Government of the Republic of Turkey or attempting to partially or completely prevent them from fulfilling its duties by using force and violence.”
The 6. hearing of the case held on February 18, 2020. The Istanbul 30th Heavy Penal Court has acquitted all suspects, including Yiğit Aksakoğlu.
The Constitutional Court (AYM) decided on 30 December 2020 that Aksakoğlu’s arrest was a violation of rights and ordered compensation. In the decision, it was emphasized that there is no fact or evidence that Aksakoğlu, who attended the training on nonviolent actions, tried to encourage people to rebel.
On 16 November 2018, 13 human rights defenders and academics were taken into custody while their homes were being raided. According to the statement released by the Istanbul Security Governorate, these individuals were detained for allegedly “organizing and financing” the 2013 Gezi protests and for “acting in a hierarchical order with businessperson Osman Kavala,” who at the time had already spent more than one year without an indictment in prison.
Of the 13, 12 detainees were released on probation and with a travel ban on 17 and 18 November 2018. Unlike the other suspects, a court in Istanbul decided to arrest Yiğit Aksakoğlu on charges of “attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey or preventing it from performing its duties.”
On 19 February 2019, when the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that the Gezi Park protests investigation and its indictment, including Yiğit Aksakoğlu, were completed, Aksakoğlu had already spent three months in jail.
On 4 March 2019, the Istanbul 30th Heavy Penal Court approved the Gezi indictment. The 657-page indictment seeks aggravated life imprisonment for 16 individuals on charges of “attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey or preventing it from performing its duties,”* including Osman Kavala, Yiğit Aksakoğlu and 14 other human rights defenders. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was the Prime Minister during the Gezi protests, 27 cabinet members, and 746 unnamed individuals are listed under the “Victims/Plaintiffs” section of the indictment.
The first hearing of the case was held on 24 June 2019. 9 defendants** presented their defense at the hearing. The court released Aksakoğlu on probation, but ruled on the continuation of Kavala’s detainment.
At the second hearing held on 18 July 2019 the defendants’ attorneys presented their additional defenses. The Court dismissed the request for release of Osman Kavala and ruled on the continuation of detainment.
The third hearing, held on 8 October 2019, was led by the appointed new panel. After all defendants were questioned, the panel once again ruled in favour of continuing Osman Kavala’s detention.
The prosecutor presented his opinion as to the accusations on Gezi trial to the court on February 6, 2020. He has requested the following in his opinion:
- The case files of the defendants who are currently abroad, namely Ayşe Pınar Alabora, Can Dündar, Gökçe Yılmaz, Handan Meltem Arıkan, Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu, Memet Ali Alabora and İnanç Ekmekçi be separated from others and the execution of the warrants against them be awaited.
- Osman Kavala, Yiğit Aksakoğlu and Ayşe Mücella Yapıcı be penalized as per the relevant provisions in the Article 312 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) on charge of “attempting to overthrow the Government of the Republic of Turkey or attempting to partially or completely prevent them from fulfilling its duties by using force and violence.”
- Çiğdem Mater Utku, Ali Hakan Altınay, Mine Özerden, Şerafettin Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman and Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi be penalized as “persons who assisted the offense” as per the Article 39 of the TCK considering that they assisted with the commission of the offenses before and during the incidents.
On 18 February, 2020, the Istanbul 30th Heavy Penal Court has acquitted all suspects in the case into the Gezi Park protests of 2013. All 16 suspects in the case were acquitted of all charges and businessman, philanthropist and human rights activist Osman Kavala is set to be freed on Feb. 18.
To see a detailed analysis of the case prepared by the Human Rights Watch, please click here.
For the report prepared by the Human Rights Committee of the British and Wales Bar Association on the case, please click here.
*Those who are named as “suspects” in the indictment are the following: M. Osman Kavala, A. Mücella Yapıcı, A. Pınar Alabora, Can Dündar, Çiğdem Mater Utku, Gökçe Yılmaz, H. Meltem Arıkan, Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu, İnanç Ekmekçi, Ali Hakan Altınay, Mehmet Ali Alabora, Mine Özerden, Ş. Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman, Yiğit Aksakoğlu, and Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi.