In 2013 June, OccupyGezi had spread to 80 out of 81 cities in Turkey and protests were violently repressed. By the end of the protests, over a dozen people were killed by police’s direct action and many other dozens probably due to secondary effects of excessive use of teargas. Yet, in the aftermath, it was the protesters who were sitting on the defendant chairs in court rooms. Prosecutors dropped many court cases, yet some of the trials that started back then still continue. Gezi Park protests had attracted millions of people from various backgrounds, and of course teenagers were no stranger to them. One of the latest conviction decisions came from the popular tourism city Antalya, where previously a young woman had been accused of “socialism propaganda” for wearing a red scarf. The most recent court case that ended with prison sentence was about 13 children who were accused of “participating in protest”.
In Antalya’s Çallı Avenue, the Gezi protests took place in 2013’s popular anti-governmental june protests. The children with the initials S.E., E.K., B.K., E.Ö., M.B.Y., İ.Ş., C.Ç., B.T.İ, B.K., Y.N., L.B., U.B.D. and B.D. were put on trial at Antalya Children’s Court III. Children were being accused of “violating law regarding protests and meetings”. The court decision came out stating that the children’s participation in the protest was within the legal framework and their right to participate in protest, declare opinion and show constitutional reaction, thus the defendants were not found guilty. In continuation of the first case, four children were also found innocent of the accusation “resisting arrest” due to lack of evidence.
However, three children were found guilty of resisting arrest and repeatedly throwing “things” that would be considered weapon, at police officers. The children received 15 months prison sentence; yet as they are below the legal age of 18, and have given sincere statements, their sentence has been decreased to 8 months 10 days. Since the children did not have a criminal record prior to the incident, the sentence has been postponed and decision is given to keep them on probation for three years.
One other children has received one year prison sentence for vandalism, to be more precise for knocking over and jumping on a fiberglass police box during the protests. His sentence was also decreased to 6 months 20 days for being under the legal age of 18. As the “damage to public property” has not been compensated since then, the child’s sentence has been converted to $2.000~ fine payment.
The defendant lawyer Hakan Evcin made a statement in the aftermath of the court case. Lawyer Evcin emphasized that the courts are now giving decisions that participation to Gezi Protests were within the constitutional rights and do not constitute crime. Evcin also continued to encourage people to take their rights in their own hands and said “adults or children, people should be confident to say out loud their opinion and participate in social opposition meetings as long as they stay non-violent. Two of the children here have been kept in detention for a night and were subjected to police violence. For that reason we will open a court case and sue those who are responsible. If the protest is legally approved, then intervention to it is illegal and must be punished.”