Police crack down on lawyers’ sit-in for arrested daily Cumhuriyet colleagues at Istanbul courthouse
Police on April 6 intervened in a sit-in staged by a group of lawyers demanding the release of arrested colleagues in the daily Cumhuriyet case at Istanbul’s Çağlayan courthouse, detaining eight of them.
A group of lawyers carrying banners reading “Freedom to Defense” gathered at the atrium of the courthouse at 11 a.m. to stage a sit-in for lawyers Akın Atalay, Bülent Utku and Mustafa Kemal Güngör, who are under arrest as a part of the investigation into critical daily newspaper Cumhuriyet. Their sit-in was also supported by Kurdish-issue focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputies Celal Doğan, Filiz Kerestecioğlu and Garo Paylan.
Security officers at the courthouse initially called on the lawyers to continue their protest, which was planned to continue until 1 p.m., outside the court. After the lawyers refused to relocate their sit-in, riot police intervened and a brawl erupted between security forces and lawyers.
A number of lawyers and police officers were reportedly injured during the intervention.
The lawyers were forced to leave the courthouse following the intervention but they managed to reenter the building several times to continue their protest, prompting another intervention.
Eight lawyers were detained in the police intervention, Doğan News Agency has reported.
The indictment into daily Cumhuriyet columnists and executives was completed on April 4, with charges including “membership of an armed terrorist organization” and “helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member.”
Prosecutors are seeking between 9.5 and 29 years in jail for Utku and Güngör, who are also both board members of the Cumhuriyet Association, along with caricaturist Musa Kart, Hakan Karasinir and Hikmet Aslan Çetinkaya on charges of “helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member” and “abusing trust.”
Atalay, who is also the CEO of the daily, is accused on the same charges as Utku and Güngör, with the prosecutor demanding between 11.5 and 43 years in jail for him, along with Mehmet Orhan Erinç and Önder Çelik.