Mehmet Ali Şahin, deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), said the “Gezi Park protests should be deemed a crime against the government and punished with life imprisonment,” in a controversial speech during a program on the TRT News channel on Wednesday.
Şahin, referring to the Gezi Park protests which started in late May against a government plan to replace İstanbul's central park with a replica of an Ottoman-era military barracks and turned into a nationwide movement, said: “In my opinion, the protesters aimed to oust the government. Therefore the protests must be assessed within the context of Turkish Penal Code [TCK] Article 312.”
The mentioned article, under the title “Crimes against government,” stipulates aggravated life imprisonment for people who attempt to overthrow or prevent the government from performing its duties.
Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman and spokesman Haluk Koç, commenting on Şahin's statement in a press conference on Thursday, said, “Will you put half of Turkey in prison, Mr. Şahin?”
22 detained in various provinces linked to Gezi protests
In the southern province of Mersin, police staged simultaneous operations at 20 addresses linked to the Gezi Park protests early on Thursday, detaining five people. The suspects are charged with “attending an illegal protest, attacking the police with stones and bats, blocking the roadways and damaging public property” during a demonstration in support of Gezi Park protests on June 1 in Mersin.
Some of the detainees are reported to be members of the Socialist Democracy Party (SDP), while six other suspects are still being sought after they could not be found at their addresses.
In Hatay, another southern province, eight protesters were referred to the Adana Courthouse on Thursday on charges of attending protests on behalf of terrorist organizations and provoking people, after being detained on Tuesday. Seventeen detainees from Hatay were recently brought to the Adana Courthouse and 13 of them were arrested while four were released pending trial.
In a related development, the Ankara Police Department's counterterrorism unit detained nine protesters in five provinces, including Ankara, on Thursday. Seven of them were referred to the Ankara Courthouse for arrest on the same day.
Meanwhile, Süleyman Çelebi, an İstanbul deputy from the CHP, submitted a parliamentary question to Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, asking, “How many people have been arrested over the last three months just for exercising a constitutional right to attend meetings and demonstrations?”
Çelebi, speaking to the media about his question, said that squares and parks belong to the public and therefore closing them is a violation of fundamental rights and liberties.