The first hearing of the lawsuit filed against 16 people, including arrested defendants Osman Kavala and Yiğit Aksakoğlu, over Gezi Park protests began at the İstanbul 30th Heavy Penal Court in Silivri today (June 24).
Charged with “attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey” along with 14 other rights defenders, Osman Kavala has stood before the judge for the first time since he was arrested 601 days ago and Yiğit Aksakoğlu stood before the court on the 220th day of his arrest.
After the doors of Silivri Prison Campus were opened, lawyers, the audience and journalists entered the court hall at around 9.30 p.m. Osman Kavala, Yiğit Aksakoğlu, Mücella Yapıcı, Çiğdem Mater and Ali Hakan Altınay have presented their statements of defense so far. After the defense of Altınay, the court has adjourned the hearing to tomorrow.
Among the ones who followed the hearing were Consul General of Germany Michael Reiffenstuel, Parliament of Germany Vice Chair Claudia Roth,European Parliament MP Rebecca Harms, Consul General of Sweden Therese Hydén, Consul General of the Netherlands Bart van Bolhuis,Consul General of France Muriel Domenach, representatives from Consulate General of Norway, representatives from US Consulate General, EU Delegation members, Greece Kavala Law Bureau representatives.
Kavala: I have always supported democracy
Making his defense, Osman Kavala said in brief:
“What caused me to be arrested for 20 months is a fantastic fiction. It is said that I am the organizer of Gezi incidents. The allegations brought against me are dishonorable. In no period of my life have I stayed close to a government change by other means than democratic elections.
“I have supported democracy all through my business life, I co-founded several non-governmental organizations. Through these organizations, I defended values that would support peace, dialogue and reconciliation among communities. (…) I have never had any relations with any secret structure, a community or organization.
‘Why is George Soros not a defendant?’
“I do not have a cryptic speech or a veiled one. My all conversations were made from the same mobile phone and my all written correspondences were made from the same computer. It does not fit the behavior pattern of a person who leads a secret network.
“The oddity in the indictment that attracts attention is that George Soros, who allegedly organized the uprising against the state together with me, is not among the defendants and his deposition is not taken.
“Keeping Gezi Park as a park complies with the public good. I feel a deep sorrow for the people who lost their lives after Gezi incidents. I indicate that I am in no way any different than hundreds of thousands of people who took part in Gezi incidents and I demand my release and acquittal.”
Aksakoğlu: There is no crime in 657-page indictment
Making his defense after Kavala, the other arrested defendant of the Gezi case Yiğit Aksakoğlu stated the following in brief:
“I am an expert who does research and release publications on civil society and social development. In no period of my life have I been in favor of an anti-democratic government. The allegations in the indictment are devoid of any foundation and they are in contradiction with my activities.
“I have never been in favor of a change through violence, but I have been in favor of change. Civil society is political by its very nature, but it differs from the politics when it comes to their demands.
“The aim of civil society is to remove the need for itself, not the government. Civil society excludes violence as a method.
“I am not knowledgeable about force or violence. There is no crime in this 657-page indictment, but there are criminals, there is a request for a reckless aggravated life sentence.
“400 women are killed in this country every year. A man who inflicted violence on three women on the street or another man who assaulted a political party chair did not stay in prison even for a day. But, my publications on nonviolent protests are considered a crime.
“I have been in prison for seven months. There is a tape in the indictment where I spoke about the playing of piano in nonviolent protests, standing man and earth tables. That speech was made one month after protests.”
Yapıcı: I am tried for second time on the same charge
After the break, Mücella Yapıcı, Secretary of the Chamber of Architects İstanbul Branch’s Advisory Board on Environmental Impact Assessment, made her defense. Underlining that it is the second time that she is tried on the same charge, Yapıcı stated the following in brief:
“They say that we created the impression that there was violence in Gezi. Did the ones who lost their lives, those who lost their eyes during Gezi incident lose them as a result of impressions?
“While I was trying to do my job, while I was saying, ‘you are unlawful according to the Constitution,’ I was sprayed with pepper gas from a distance of 50 centimeters. Was that because of impressions?
“My trial is now similar to İstanbul elections. It did not work, then let’s repeat it! The accusations are not based on any evidence. But, I will still answer the accusations. I completely reject all charges pressed by this indictment.
“Peaceful demonstrations are a right, they cannot be accused. What we all did was to come together around an idea and stand in solidarity. It is not a crime to make a call to the government to resign.
“Gezi is our tomorrow, it is the cartridge of hope for the bright futures of our children. If Taksim Solidarity took part in it, I am honored.”
Mater: I am charged with attempted coup because I wanted to shoot a movie
Film producer Çiğdem Mater also presented her statement of defense after Yapıcı. Some highlights from Mater’s defense were as follows:
“I am charged with attempting to stage a coup because I wanted to shoot a movie. Gezi Park is at the center of my life. The 657-page indictment is based on tapes that were acquired by illegal means. Their inclusion in this case file is violating my personal rights.
“A speech of mine about a movie that I wanted to produce after the incidents was cited in the indictment for six times. When we look at some of my trips mentioned in some parts of the indictment, you will see that a vast majority of them were to attend film festivals in the world and in Turkey. The indictment mentions my name for 43 times in total. There is no evidence indicating any acts of mine that would suit the charges pressed in the indictment.
“I did not take part in the production of a film on Gezi as alleged. The film allegedly produced by me was, in fact, made by a director from the US. I was just a commentator in the film, I was in front of the camera. (…) According to the indictment, I am charged with a film that does not exist.
“The charges are entirely based on tapes. Since Osman Kavala was my former employer, our long telephone conversations with him are in accord with the nature of things.
“If this indictment was a movie script, it would be rejected due to logical errors, but it is an indication of the fact that life here is more fictional than cinema. I reject all charges and demand my acquittal.”
Altınay: It shouldn’t be so easy to demand aggravated life sentence for a person
After the defense of Çiğdem Mater, Anadolu Kültür Inc. Executive Board Member Ali Hakan Altınay presented his statement of defense.
Altınay said, “I read the indictment of the prosecutor, but I have difficulty in understanding what I am charged with. Though the indictment does not put forward the crime with its evidence, I think I need to absolve myself.”
Underlining that he does not accept the charges brought against him, Altınay said, “It shouldn’t be so easy to demand aggravated life sentence for a person. My crime is to go to the park for three or four times to observe the Gezi Park. In fact, on May 31, 2013, I was at a conference on the occasion of 10th anniversary of the AKP (ruling Justice and Development Party).”
‘Fate of a country is determined by those living there’
Continuing his defense, Ali Halan Altınay further indicated, “All projects organized by the Open Society Foundation is subject to inspections. There is no evidence in the indictment indicating what support the Open Society Foundation gave for the continuation of Gezi protests. There are no grant decisions for Gezi protests signed by me.”
Altınay also stated, “When I was asked by Milliyet newspaper about the allegations that George Soros was supporting Gezi, I told them ‘I wouldn’t accept it in the first place. The fate of a country is determined by the ones who live there.’ And I am still of the same opinion.”
*Illustration: Tarık Tolunay.