Turkish football fans face life in prison for 'coup attempt' during Gezi protests
The Beşiktaş football club’s most famous supporter group is known for its left-leaning ideology and emphatic dissident stance on a panoply of topics, as well as their sensitivity to social movements. HÜRRİYET Photo / Levent KuluProsecutors have demanded aggravated life imprisonment for 35 members of the iconic supporter group of Beşiktaş, çArşı, on charges of “attempting to overthrow the government” in Arab Spring-like fashion for leading last year’s Gezi protests in Istanbul, Turkish media reported Sept. 8.
The indictment submitted to the court has accused çArşı members of establishing an organization and attempting “to create an image similar to the Arab Spring that could be provided to the foreign press with the aim of ousting the legal Turkish government by illegal means.”
The Beşiktaş football club’s most famous supporter group is known for its left-leaning ideology and emphatic dissident stance on a panoply of topics, as well as their sensitivity to social movements. They played an important role in spreading the Gezi protests as they were among the first groups to continue demonstrating despite a brutal police crackdown on protesters following the first raids on Gezi Park last May.
Many çArşı members were detained during the protests as the group became a target of officials.
The fresh indictment reportedly prepared in the aftermath of a year-long investigation also alleged that the group attempted to invade the Prime Minister’s Office next to Dolmabahçe Palace during the protests.
It also said the leaders of the group, including Cem Yakışkan, Erol Özdil and Halil İbrahim Erol, incited protesters.
Tweets presented as evidence
Evidence presented by prosecutors included phone recordings and tweets posted during the protests by members of the group, including a message from Yakışkan that allegedly said the protests were not just centered on the trees cut down by the municipality in Gezi Park.
“As the phone recordings of the suspects also show, it is understood that they were trying to overthrow the government of the Turkish government and to facilitate this objective, they were attempting to capture the Prime Ministry offices in Ankara and Istanbul in coordination,” the indictment said.
The new accusations come a few months after the acceptance of another indictment charging several members of the Taksim Solidarity Platform, another leading of the protests, which organized the first demonstrations against the destruction of trees in Gezi Park, of leading or being a member of a criminal organization. Prosecutors have accused the protest leaders of “provocations” in calling on people to come to the park’s reopening in July 2013, demanding up to 13.5 years in prison for each of those charged.