Prosecution withholds key exonerating evidence in Gezi Park trial

According to lawyers for defendant Yiğit Aksakoğlu in the Gezi Park trial, prosecutors are withholding from the defense an audio recording that would exonerate him.

This file photo shows civil society activist Yiğit Aksakoğlu.

Duvar English

Defense lawyers for Yiğit Aksakoğlu, on trial for allegedly organizing the Gezi Park protests of 2013, say that the prosecution is withholding key evidence that could exonerate their client, according to reporting by online news outlet T24. 

Aksakoğlu, who was illegally held in pre-trial detention for over seven months, is accused of "attempting to rekindle the Gezi protests by bringing Otpor leader Ivan Marovic to Turkey.” Marovic is a nonviolent resistance organizer from Belgrade, Syria.

In a phone call with another academician, Aksakoğlu allegedly said, “We can bring Ivan Marovic. It looks like he will arrive at the end of August. He does [resistance] professionally there.” This is after Aksakoğlu mentioned Marovic’s tactics in a speech in 2013. 

Prosecutors say that Aksakoğlu was suggesting bringing Marovic to Turkey to help with the Gezi protests. However, when lawyer Aslı Kazan asked to access those recordings, she was denied. The alleged recordings entered the file years after Aksakoğlu’s detention and have not been heard by anyone on the defense. Aksakoğlu’s team insists that the files would reveal the precise opposite - that Aksakoğlu said he “shouldn’t have” suggested Marovic in his speech. 

At trial, the prosecutors referred to the recordings, thereby inherently indicating that they had hidden them.

Further, in interrogations, Aksakoğlu was accused of leveraging his international connections to broaden and strengthen the Gezi Park protests with Marovic and the Otpar movement’s support. 

“It is understood that the individuals are in an effort to rekindle the uprising and ensure the participation of the large masses of the society and that they are also trying to activate their foreign connections in this context,” prosecutors said.

The judge denied Kazan’s request to play the file in court during the hearing on March 21 and has failed to allow the defendants to investigate all evidence collected by the prosecution, as required by law. 

The Gezi Park trial has shed light on the extent of human rights abuses in Turkey under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) led government. One of the people on trial is Osman Kavala, the businessman and philanthropist who has been held in pre-trial detention since 2017. His continued detention has triggered sanctions by the Council of Europe against Turkey and the trial against all those accused of masterminding the mass protests of 2013 has been rife with accusations of corruption and mismanagement.