Not guilty verdicts for all Çarşı members in the trial against the government for ‘attempting a coup’
All 35 members of the Beşiktaş football fan club Çarşı who were accused of “attempting a coup” during 2013’s anti-government Gezi Park protests were acquitted of the charge by an İstanbul court on Tuesday 29th December 2015, but two of them were sentenced to two years and six months in jail for possession of an illegal substance.
The İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court had accepted an indictment against the Çarşı members on Sept. 11, 2014, which accused the 35 of working to overthrow the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government. The indictment had sought aggravated life sentences for the 35 protesters and also accused them of “membership in an armed group,” “resisting officers of the law,” “staging demonstrations in violation of the law” and “possessing unlicensed weapons.”
In the last hearing on Sept. 11, Prosecutor Abdullah Mirza Coşkun called for the suspects to be acquitted of the charges against them and that they instead be tried on charges of holding an illegal demonstration.
The Gezi Park protests in İstanbul began peacefully in May 2013 against a government plan to replace a park in Taksim Square with a replica of an Ottoman-era barracks. In response to a heavy-handed police crackdown, the protests erupted into violent clashes with police and spread across the country. The demonstrations brought together large groups of protesters who accused then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of demonstrating increasingly authoritarian tendencies over his 10 years in power and of attempting to impose his conservative religious values on a country governed by secular laws.
Among those who stood trial are leading Çarşı members Cem Yakışkan, Erol Özdil and Halil İbrahim Erol.
According to Cihan, during Tuesday’s hearing, suspect Hakan Tezgel said that the Çarşı members were on trial because of their loyalty to their fan club. When the judge asked whether or not he was demanding to be released, Tezgel said: “I’m not demanding any such thing. You have to release me.”
Another suspect, Ayhan Güner, said that Çarşı had been subjected to a defamation campaign, adding: “None of the police officers mentioned in the complaint are here today. Many people died during the Gezi [Park protests]. It does not matter whether our sentences are suspended or not.”
Ersan Şen, one of the lawyers defending the suspects, criticized the fact that one of his clients, Cem Yakışkan, was charged with attempting to overthrow the government simply because he was at Taksim during the protests. Stating that no curfew had been imposed on the Taksim area at that time, Şen said his client did not break any laws by going there, Cihan reported.
Ömer Kavilli, another lawyer, asserted that Gezi was a grassroots movement and that almost 10 million people took part in protests. He also said that there was no way that the suspects could have overthrown the government.