Turkish court rules peaceful demonstrators do not need permission
ISTANBUL – Doğan News Agency
DHA PhotoAn Istanbul court that acquitted 26 people detained during the Gezi Park protests in the summer of 2013 has stated in its reasoned ruling that people do not have to get official permission for peaceful demonstrations, and demonstrations held without permission are not necessarily violent.
Istanbul’s 33rd Criminal Court of First Instance had on April 29 acquitted 26 people who faced three years in prison on charges of “violating the law on meetings and demonstrations,” as well as five members of the Taksim Solidarity Platform – Mücella Yapıcı, Ali Çerkezoğlu, Beyza Metin, Ender İmrek and Haluk Ağabeyoğlu – who faced 13 years in jail for “forming an organization with the aim to commit crime.”
Judge Onur Özsaraç referred to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in the court’s 17-page reasoning, saying that “all states member of the convention pledges to comply with it, so that the convention becomes part of the domestic law.”
“In line with the ECHR’s protection of freedom of speech, the right to freedom of assembly does not protect only ideas and opinions approved by wider society. Apart from these, it also can be used to express opinions that might cause discomfort, concern, or shock among wider society. The right to freedom of assembly might take different forms. Sit-ins, road-blocks, and even occupying an area are part of Article 11 - the right to freedom of assembly and association - in the Convention,” Özsaraç said in the justification, adding that this article also protects private meetings and assembling in public.
“A demonstration that does not receive permission from the public authorities does not necessarily mean that it is not a peaceful demonstration. Article 11 of the Convention applies to demonstrations and rallies that are peaceful but lack permission,” he added.
The justification also recalled ECHR decisions on Turkey in which it found Turkey guilty over the excessive use of force by the police and said the police must refrain from using violence against demonstrators.
Özsaraç also said the 26 people who were among the Gezi Park demonstrators were not involved in any violent action and had not called for violence. The suspects used their right to assembly and association derived from the constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights in a peaceful way, he added.
Özsaraç emphasized that there is no evidence to prove that the Taksim Solidarity Platform is a “criminal organization.”
Yapıcı, who is the co-chair of the Chamber of Architects’ Environmental Impact Assessment Board, and Çerkezoğlu, the secretary general of the Istanbul Medical Chamber (ÇED), were taken into custody on July 8, 2013, along with 50 other protesters. They were detained after staging a demonstration during the reopening of Gezi Park, after it had been sealed off by the police for three weeks.