Students released after prosecutor defends participating in May Day as ‘a right’
Ayşegül Usta HÜRRİYET / ISTANBUL
Tear gas and pressurized water have become part of the folklore of May Day in Turkey, particularly in Istanbul. AFP PhotoTwo students facing between 1.5 and 3 years in jail for taking part in last year’s May Day were acquitted by a local court in Istanbul on June 13, after the prosecutor in the case remarkably argued that demonstrating was a “right that could not be subject to any permission by the authorities.”
The students, Gizem İnce and Gökhan Dermanlı, were charged with “opposing the law on assembly” and participating in an “illegal” demonstration in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district during an eventful May Day, marked by the government’s decision to close Taksim Square to gatherings due to works on an underground tunnel.
The prosecutor of the case, Tarık Fırat, noted that Labor Day was an official holiday and stressed that the according to Turkish law it is not obligatory to seek permission ahead of demonstrations.
Fırat also referred to the jurisprudence of the Turkish Supreme Court of Appeals and the European Court of Human Rights to insist that the two defendants did not commit any crime and should not be convicted.
He also added that there was no evidence that the two students had used force or threatened security forces while protesting.
Fırat’s was a unique speech, as prosecutors have regularly demanded heavy prison sentences for protesters for participating in demonstrations since last year’s anti-government Gezi protests. One of the cases that caused most outrage is one involving a student in the southern province of Antalya, who faces up to 98 years in jail for attending protests in the city over the death of a protester in the nearby province of Hatay.