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CRIME >Turkish court convicts 244 protesters over Gezi Park protests

ISTANBUL

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A local court in Istanbul has sentenced 244 participants in the 2013 Gezi protests to jail time for a range of crimes, including “polluting a mosque.”

The 55th Criminal Court of First Instance in Istanbul on Oct. 23 sentenced 244 of 255 defendants to between two months, 15 days and one year, two-months 16 days’ imprisonment. Only four of the defendants were acquitted, while charges against four suspects were separated from the case file. 

Some 255 protesters, including seven foreigners, were charged with a range of offenses including violating laws on demonstrations, “damaging public property,” “taking part in illegal demonstrations,” “causing interruptions in public services,” “damaging a place of worship,” and “protecting criminals.” The indictment sought between one and 11 years, six months in jail for the suspects.

According to the Oct. 23 ruling, four suspects were sentenced to 10 months of imprisonment for “polluting a mosque,” while two suspects were sentenced to two years, two months for “wearing doctors’ coats.” The local court, however, postponed the penalties.

The four defendants who were sentenced for “polluting a mosque” were doctors who provided emergency aid to protesters in the Dolmabahçe Bezm-i Alem Valide Sultan Mosque in Beşiktaş, where protesters injured in a police attack were being treated. 

Then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan insistently claimed that protesters had drunk alcohol inside the mosque after escaping from a police attack in the area, despite assertions from the mosque’s muezzin that no such activity had occurred.

The Gezi protests began in late May 2013 as an effort to stop bulldozers from razing central Istanbul’s Gezi Park, one of the few green spaces left in the city’s Taksim neighborhood, to build a shopping mall. Unrest quickly spread across Turkey, developing into a revolt against what protesters said was the increasing authoritarianism of Erdoğan’s decade-long rule.

Eight protesters were killed during the unrest.

October/23/2015

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