Çarşı coup case delayed, fans free to go to Liverpool away
AFP PhotoAn Istanbul court has postponed the “coup attempt” case against 35 members of Beşiktaş’s çArşı supporters’ group until April 2, amid a mixture of mockery and horror at the controversial trial.
The court also ruled to lift a ban on leaving Turkey for the 27 suspects that it heard on Dec. 16. The ban had been handed to all 35 suspects, and the probation on the remaining eight suspects remains in place.
The court had accepted on Sept. 11 the indictment charging members of çArşı with “attempting a coup” against the government after it took part in last year’s Gezi Park protests. According to the indictment, çArşı members are accused of attempting to capture the Prime Ministry’s offices in Ankara and Istanbul with the aim of creating “Arab Spring-like upheaval” and attempting to overthrow the government.
The lifting of the travel ban was welcomed by supporters, after suspect Erdem Işık had demanded such a decision during the Dec. 16 hearing, telling Judge Metin Tamirci that Beşiktaş has a crucial tie against Liverpool in the Europa League on Feb. 19 in the U.K.
When reminded of wiretappings that recorded him saying, “I have a cause now. I will either die here or keep resisting,” Işık said he was at home when the conversation took place and he was simply trying to show off to his girlfriend.
Fellow suspect Erol Özdil, also known as “Dewe,” said he did not attend any rallies during the Gezi protests and he had used the masks that were found in a police search at his house while drawing placards for matches. Police had considered the masks to be evidence, as they were widely used by protesters as protection against tear gas.
“I am one of the two or three founders of çArşı and my placards are world-famous,” Dewe said, adding that both Yıldırım Demirören, the former Beşiktaş president who today heads the Turkish Football Federation (TFF), and current Beşiktaş President Fikret Orman could also testify that he even had a placard-writing room in Inönü Stadium.
İbrahim Aydın, meanwhile, said he was on his honeymoon during the Gezi protests. “Even if Beşiktaş is an [illegal] organization, we are a member of it,” Aydın said defiantly.
Bülent Ergenç, who is accused of being one of the leaders of the group, accepted that he had attended some protests, but on the night of the rally to the Prime Ministry building, he was in another city for an acquaintance’s wedding, putting forward a CD of the wedding ceremony as evidence.
“Çarşı is not an illegal organization. It does not have a leader or a manager. It only has its customs,” Ergenç said. A gun was also found by police in Ergenç’s house, which he said he kept for protection against theft.
Engin Sarar said he was working at the front desk of Gezi Hotel, near the park where the protests took place, and that he was a victim because the hotel was affected by the tear gas shot by police during the demonstrations.
“I am a good person and a good Beşiktaş fan,” he said.
Murat Eroğlu said the case resulted in his divorce from his wife. “My wife became afraid and left when I was accused of being a member of a terrorist organization," he said. When asked about a döner kebab knife found in his house, Eroğlu said it belonged to his father, who runs a kebab restaurant.
During the protests, an anti-riot car and a bulldozer were seized by demonstrators. When asked about any involvement, Koray Yalnız said he did not even have a driver’s license at that time.
When asked about his role in the group, Barış Karaca said he had no links because he is a Fenerbahçe fan, which drew applause from fans present at the court. A larger crowd was also gathered in the corridors and outside the court building, chanting slogans and football songs.
Cem Yakışkan, another prominent çArşı member, had earlier said çArşı was "not even able topple Demirören for years," let alone topple the government.
When asked about the food he sent to protesters, Yakışkan replied: “I run a pizza restaurant. It was a good order of 1,000 Turkish Liras and it was good for me because I had newly opened the restaurant. I was paid through a bank transfer,” he said.
Supporters from çArşı were among the first groups to brave violent police crackdowns and continued to demonstrate during the first days of the Gezi protests, which led to many supporters being detained.
Many suspects have admitted at court that they took part in the protests, but committed no violent acts.
Çarşı has received support from political parties, international human rights organizations and fan groups from many countries in the lawsuit, which Human Rights Watch has described as "ludicrous."