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Turkey acquits Gezi Park protestors, re-arrests activist after release

People demonstrate, shouting slogans and holding pictures of Gezi Park victims, on May 31, 2018 in Istanbul, to mark the fifth anniversary of the start of the Gezi Park protests. sues concerning perceived infringements of civil rights. [OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images]
People demonstrate, shouting slogans and holding pictures of Gezi Park victims, on May 31, 2018 in Istanbul, to mark the fifth anniversary of the start of the Gezi Park protests. sues concerning perceived infringements of civil rights. [OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images]

A Turkish court has acquitted the defendants who protested at Istanbul’s Gezi Park in 2013, releasing nine individuals who were previously accused of attempting to cause instability and overthrow the Turkish government by organising large demonstrations at the famed green spot in Istanbul.

That ruling changed yesterday, however, when the judge acknowledged that there was “not enough concrete evidence” to fully charge them.

Celebrations reportedly erupted in the courtroom as the acquittal was announced, with people having believed the defendants would be found guilty, bringing to a head a controversy that has lasted for years and been a point of criticism over freedom of speech in Turkey.

The celebrations lasted only a short while, however, as one of the most prominent defenders – businessman and activist Osman Kavala – was ordered to be re-arrested only hours after his release after two years spent in jail.

READ: 2 children pardoned in Turkey after apologising for insulting Erdogan

The protests in 2013 were held for the purpose of attempting to save Istanbul’s prominent landmark of Gezi Park – known for being one of the only large green spots within the sprawling city – from being lost to a construction plan backed by the government.

After the peaceful sit-in at the park was violently broken up by authorities, the protests erupted into broader anti-government demonstrations.

Following the order to re-arrest Kavala, lawmaker Garo Paylan of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish HDP party condemned President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and accused him of being responsible for the reversal. “It was…Erdogan who ordered the arrest of Kavala, and it was him who ordered his release today. We have been waiting for his release for 5 hours, and now they are making up charges related to the coup.”

Paylan continued by claiming that “Nobody is safe against this judicial cruelty in Turkey. I am seriously worried about arbitrary judicial decisions and trumped up charges.”

There has not yet been an update by the authorities on Kavala’s situation, nor that of seven other defendants whose cases were being considered.

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