Announcing its interlocutory judgement, the court has ruled that Yiğit Aksakoğlu shall be released on probation with an international travel ban and the arrest of Osman Kavala shall continue. The next hearing will be held on July 18, 2019.

The trial of 16 rights defenders, who are charged with "attempting to overthrow the government" with Gezi resistance and two of whom have been arrested pending trial, continued today (June 25).

In the first hearing held by the İstanbul 30th Heavy Penal Court in Silivri yesterday, Osman Kavala made his defense on the 601th day of his arrest and Yiğit Aksakoğlu presented his statement of defense on the 220th day of his arrest. Other defendants Mücella Yapıcı, Çiğdem Mater and Ali Hakan Altınay also made their defense yesterday.

In today's hearing, defendants Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman, Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi and Mine Özerden presented their statements of defense. İnanç Ekmekçi's defense could not be taken as she was not present in court. Afterwards, lawyers presented their statements of defense.

There is a warrant against Can Dündar, Pınar Öğün, Gökçe Yılmaz, Handan Meltem Arıkan, Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu and Memet Ali Alabora.

Court has ruled for continuation of Kavala's arrest

After the defenses of defendants and their attorneys, the Prosecutor announced its opinion as to the accusations and demanded that the arrest of Osman Kavala and Yiğit Aksakoğlu continue.

Announcing its interlocutory judgement, the court has ruled that Aksakoğlu shall be released on probation with an international travel ban and the arrest of Kavala shall continue. The next hearing will be held on July 18.

Rights defenders in court hall

While the unarrested defendants appeared in court before the hearing started, arrested defendants Osman Kavala and Yiğit Aksakoğlu were brought to court hall by gendarmerie officers. While they were taken to the court hall, the audience showed solidarity with them by applauding, to which Kavala and Aksakığlu responded by waving a greeting towards the audience.

Atalay: Gezi is Turkey's hope for freedom and justice

After the audience, defendants, lawyers and court board took their seats, lawyer Can Atalay presented his statement of defense.

The defense of Atalay took over two hours. Starting his defense, he said, "What I will say at the end, I will say it at the beginning," and continued:

"This indictment is one of the most recent examples of an attempt to smear one of the most honorable social incidents in the history of Turkey.

"We read the indictment, we are charged with attempting to abolish the Constitutional order. But, we don't understand what İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office understands from 'Constitutional order.' If we will talk about Constitutional order, won't we also talk about the freedom of everyone to disseminate their thoughts and convictions and freedom of association?

"Gezi is against imperialism. It cannot be explained with any foreign tricks or conspiracies. From the beginning, it is a continuation of not understanding, being unable to understand or pretending not to understand Gezi.

"Gezi is the will and determination of the people to take their fates into their own hands. Gezi is the possibility that Turkey can arise from the darkness of the Middle East. Gezi is this country's hope for equality, freedom and justice."

Kahraman: Gezi is a movement of society's conscience

After the defense of Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman started presenting his statement of defense. A break was given at the hearing till 2.45 p.m. after Kahraman made his defense for around 45 minutes.

Afterwards, Kahraman continued his defense and stated the following:

"Something unforeseeable happened in Gezi. Gezi has become the conscience of the society. (...) However, the violence inflicted on us there, the political symbolism of Taksim and the police violence led to Gezi.

"Gezi is, in fact, a movement of society's conscience. Gezi is what is seen by the ones who want to protect their park, their green space and wage urban struggle; Gezi is a struggle against the police violence, which was definitely inflicted by the FETÖ* members."

'Don't fear Gezi, it is not something to be afraid of'

Concluding his remarks, Tayfun Kahraman indicated,

"This indictment does not recount Gezi. Gezi is not us. Gezi is anti-imperialist. Gezi is the reaction of the ones who feel unrepresented. Gezi is the place where people embrace each other and express their demands. Don't fear Gezi, Gezi is not something to be afraid of."

Özerden: Gezi is an honorable, social incident

After Tayfun Kahraman, Mine Özerden also made her defense.

"Gezi is an honorable and social incident. It is such a big movement that it cannot be put on the shoulders of 16 people," she stated and added,

"When we look at the other tapes in the indictment, it is apparent that it was a discussion panel on urban transformation. For instance, the conversation that I held with Yiğit Ekmekçi was not about Gezi. However, for the sole reason that the conversation in question had the word 'chaos' in it, it has been added to the indictment as if it had been related with Gezi. I reject the charges pressed against me in the indictment and demand my acquittal."

Ekmekçi: I objected to violence against young people

Following Mine Özerden's defense, Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi presented his statement of defense. Ekmekçi stated the following in brief:

"Gezi Park has always been a part of my life. I objected to the violence against young people. I did not organize such a complicated social incident as Gezi, I did not finance it. I did not attend any meeting about it.

"I have never made acquaintance with 12 people included in this indictment. I talked to Çiğdem Mater twice. I spoke with Mine Özerden for 85 times and with Osman Kavala, my friend of 37 years, for several times. I cannot make any sense of what kind of conclusion was drawn from these conversations and how they entered the indictment." Concluding his defense, Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi rejected all charges and requested his acquittal.

After the defense of Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi, the defense of İnanç Ekmekçi could not be taken as she was not present. That being the case, the defenses of rights defenders were completed and Köksal Bayraktar, the attorney of Osman Kavala, and attorney Turgut Kazan made their defense.

Aksakoğlu to be released, Kavala's arrest to continue

After the defendants and two attorneys completed their defenses, the Prosecutor announced its opinion as to the accusations. The Prosecutor demanded that the statement of İnanç Ekmekçi, who is currently in Germany, be taken through rogatory and the arrest of Osman Kavala and Yiğit Aksakoğlu continue, considering the quality and nature of the charges.

The court announced its interlocutory judgement and ruled that Yiğit Aksakoğlu shall be released on probation and the arrest of Osman Kavala shall continue. An international travel ban has been imposed on Aksakoğlu.

The court has also ruled for the continuation of warrants against Can Dündar, Pınar Öğün, Gökçe Yılmaz, Handan Meltem Arıkan, Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu and Memet Ali Alabora.

As the court has rejected rogatory request of İnanç Ekmekçi, her defense will be taken in the next hearing in the event that she is present at court.

The request of Çiğdem Mater for lifting of judicial control measures and international travel has been rejected by the court.

In the next hearing, which will be held on July 18, 2019, the defendants' attorneys who could not make their defense in the first hearing will present their statements of defense.

What happened?

In raids conducted on November 16, 2018, Prof. Dr. Betül Tanbay, Prof. Dr. Turgut Turhanlı, Anadolu Kültür's Deputy Board Chair Yiğit Ekmekçi, Board Member Ali Hakan Altınay, General Coordinator Asena Günal, film producers Çiğdem Mater and Meltem Aslan, civil society employees Yiğit Aksakoğlu, Filiz Telek, Bora Sarı, Yusuf Cıvır, Ayşegül Güzel, Hande Özhabeş were detained.

Hande Özhabeş, Prof. Dr. Turgut Tarhanlı, Asena Günal ile Bora Sarı and Meltem Aslan were released at night after testimonies. Prof. Dr. Betül Tanbay, Yiğit Ekmekçi, Hakan Altınay, Yusuf Cıvır, Ayşegül Güzel and Çiğdem Mater were released on November 17.

Yiğit Aksakoğlu, who was doing civil society studies at the Bilgi University, was arrested. Anadolu Kültür Board Chair Osman Kavala was arrested without an indictment November 1, 2017 and March 4, 2019. An 657-page bill of indictment was completed on February 20 and sent to 30th Heavy Penal Court.

The indictment charges all the 16 defendants with "attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey or preventing it from performing its duties" upon the Turkish Penal Code Article 312/2.

The other charges are, damage to property, qualified form of damage to property, Holding or handing over dangerous material, damaging places of worship and cemeteries, violation of the Law No. 6136 on Firearms and Knives Qualified looting (Turkish Penal Code Article 149), qualified bodily injury (Turkish Penal code Article 86), violation of the Law No. 2836 on the Conservation of Cultural and Natural Property.

The 16 defendants are alleged to be the "head executives" of the Gezi Park protests are Osman Kavala, Yiğit Aksakoğlu, Ali Hakan Altınay, Mücella Yapıcı, Ayşe Pınar Alabora, Can Dündar, Çiğdem Mater, Gökçe Yılmaz, Handan Meltem Arıkan, Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu, İnanç Ekmekçi, Mehmet Ali Alabora, Mine Özerden, Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman, and Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi. The bill of indictment was accepted by the court on March 4. The first hearing will be held on June 24.

While Osman Kavala's application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has not been concluded, Yiğit Aksakoğlu's attorneys appealed to the Constitutional Court.

*Illustrations: Murat Başol