I was present on 2 April at Europe’s biggest court house, the Cağlayan Courthouse in Istanbul, to observe the second hearing in the prosecution of members of the fan club Çarşı of the Istanbul football club Beşiktaş. Thirty five people stand accused of a “attempting to overthrow the government” through their participation in Gezi Park protests that shook Turkey in summer 2013. They face up to life imprisonment if found guilty.
A few other international observers were present, among them two lawyers and some football fans from Germany.. Unlike the first hearing on Dec. 16, 2014, Çarşı fans did not hold a solidarity demonstration outside the courthouse out of respect for the Istanbul prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz, who was killed at the courthouse during a siege by the armed leftist group DHKP-C the previous day.
The indictment submitted by prosecutors accuses leaders of the group of inciting protesters and seeking to overthrow the government by creating an “Arab Spring-like” situation in Turkey.
Drafted by Prosecutor Adem Meral, the 38-page indictment accuses the defendants of violating articles of the Turkish Penal Code as well as anti-terrorism laws and the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations, and possession of fire arms. Some of the charges included “attempting to demolish or impede the functioning of Republic of Turkey, forming a terrorist organization, resisting public officials and damaging property”. Both the 35 people on trial and the Çarşı supporters group reject the accusations.
At the court hearing the last 7 of 35 defendants to do so made their statements to the court. Ayhan Güner, a prominent figure of Çarşı, rejects all accusations against its members and says: “The Çarşı group is not a coup-plotter. The Gezi protests are the renaissance and Çarşı is its Michelangelo.”
Four police officers, there as plaintiffs, were questioned by the judge. All of them said they did not see the Çarşı group during the clashes. One police officer said he was wounded during a clash with another group. Unexpectedly, they all withdraw their complaints. There is no plaintiffs left!
Afterwards two police officers are asked as witnesses about a piece of evidence, a bottle, which had been found during a search of a defendants house?. Both police officers stated that it was a plastic bottle containing a substance that turned out to be water, belonging to the brother of the suspect for his drug use. It was a bong and not a “bomb equipment” as presentenced in the indictment!
The next hearing is due to take place on 26 June.
Amnesty International-Germany Turkey co-ordinator