President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that a court “attempted” to acquit prominent businessman, human rights activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala with “a maneuver,” as he slammed the 2013 Gezi protests.
“This is not an innocent uprising incident. There are people behind the scenes, such as Soros, who stir up countries via uprisings. Their Turkey leg was in jail. They tried to acquit him with a maneuver yesterday,” Erdoğan told members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Feb. 19.
Kavala and eight other defendants were acquitted by the Istanbul 30th Heavy Penal Court on Feb. 18 in the case into the Gezi Park protests, which took place in Istanbul’s Taksim following harsh government response to a group of protesters trying to prevent the cutting down of trees for a large development project planned by the government.
Kavala, who was accused of being one of the “managers and organizers” of the protests, was arrested in November 2017 on suspicion of attempting to overthrow the government and the constitutional order through force and violence.
While the acquittal decision was met with surprise and happiness, the joy was short lived since Kavala was detained hours later over a separate case into the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt, widely believed to have been masterminded by the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen.
The Gülen movement, which was an ally of the AKP and Erdoğan until 2013, is officially called the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).
Commenting on the acquittal ruling, Erdoğan said he respects the court decision, but “our judgement will never change.”
“We respect all decisions of courts, but our and our people’s judgement about Gezi and who supported it will never change,” he said, adding that the detention order must be respected.
Describing the protests as a ” heinous attack,” Erdoğan said that Gezi was a “civilian uprising against the state and the people that started with the excuse of protecting the environment.”
Erdoğan also said that Gezi was similar to “terrorist attacks and coups,” as he screened a video about the subject.
Saying that the protests caused damage to public property and financial losses to Turkey, Erdoğan slammed main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for calling Gezi protesters “enlightened youth.”
“We don’t need this youth. We need youth ready to die for this land,” Erdoğan said.
Turning to the beginning of the protests, he also criticized former Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder without stating his name, referring to him as “a toy of” the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“This incident, which saw the occupation of streets and squares, doesn’t have any innocent aspects,” Erdoğan said, describing the protests as “vandalism.”
“Whoever describes the Gezi events as an innocent environment movement is either inattentive or intentionally an enemy of this country and the people,” he added.
“The people should rest assured. We will follow this issue with determination until the end and will continue our struggle for the manifestation of justice,” Erdoğan noted.