Turkey's TİP starts Freedom March in Hatay, demanding release of jailed MP Atalay

Chair of Workers' Party of Turkey (TİP) Erkan Baş began the “Freedom March” to the country’s capital Ankara from southern Hatay province after TİP MP Can Atalay’s 18-year jail sentence was upheld in the court in the Gezi Park trial.

Burcu Özkaya Günaydın / Gazete Duvar

Erkan Baş, Workers' Party of Turkey (TİP) head, on Oct. 1 started his party's Freedom March from jailed MP Can Atalay's constituency Hatay, demanding the release of the latter.

Baş has dedicated the march to all Gezi trial prisoners, women, youth, and workers alongside the party’s MP, Atalay, who is still kept in prison despite being elected as a lawmaker..

Baş commented on the Court of Cassation’s (“Yargıtay”), top appeals court in Turkey, approval of the Gezi Trial sentences, stating that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was using judiciary to intimidate the public.

“The Gezi Resistance was one of the most peaceful, humane, and righteous public outcries of the world,” Baş said and added, “Any attempt to criminalize a resistance in which millions of citizens have proudly participated, is an insult.”

Stating that the decisionmakers of the trial will go down in Turkey’s history as a disgrace, Baş added, “Gezi is a rebellion movement. Gezi is the pride of Turkey and has been inspiring the world ever since. Gezi is Turkey itself. What mafia heads, drug kingpins, and capital-serving governments say do not concern us. We see their insults as medals of honor.”

“Politicians must take their hands off the judiciary”

The crowd marched to the Hatay parliament building after the press statement. Atalay's family members also joined the march. Father Mustafa Atalay stated, “Politicians must take their hands off this case, and let the courts operate freely,” addressing Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç.

“How will they live with themselves having made this decision? Will they not be embarrassed in the future, when their children ask them about the case? I invite all ‘democrats’ to join us in this march,” Atalay said, criticizing the ruling.

“Hatay supports its representative”

The march progressed through Armutlu, one of the most heavily affected neighborhoods during the Feb. 6 earthquakes, and the symbol of the Gezi Protests in Hatay. With strict security precautions in place, the march was briefly led by plainclothes policemen. The public has supported the crowd chanting “Hatay supports its elected representative.”

Support from the Labor and Freedom Alliance

Representatives from the Labor and Freedom Alliance were also in attendance, supporting TİP head Erkan Baş.

The opposition Green Left Party (YSP) MPs Tülay Hatimoğulları and Ali Bozan, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) MPs Mehmet Güzelmansur and Okan Konuralp, local representatives from the Laborist Movement Party (EHP) and Socialist Refoundation Party (SYKP), and Revolutionary Worker’s Party (DİP) joined the march.

What had happened?

Workers' Party of Turkey (TİP) chair Erkan Baş had stated that they would start a march from Hatay to Ankara unless the Constitutional Court made a decision regarding TİP MP Atalay until the opening of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey on Oct. 1.

Following the Court of Cassation’s Sept. 28 decision to uphold sentences of Can Atalay, Osman Kavala, Çiğdem Mater, Tayfun Kahraman and Mine Özerden in the Gezi Trial; Baş declared he would begin the “Freedom March.”

The defendants were charged with "attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey.”

Hundreds of thousands marched in Istanbul and elsewhere in Turkey in 2013 as demonstrations against plans to build replica Ottoman barracks in the city's Gezi Park grew into nationwide protests against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's government.

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Turkey must free Kavala and others for violations of their rights. Turkey has not taken any action and now faces possible suspension from the Council of Europe.

Program of the March’s Hatay Leg

A different theme relating to Turkey’s issues will be covered on each day of the march, which plans to cover an average of 30 kilometers a day. Citizens involved with each day's theme will also join the march.

Oct. 1: March for Can Atalay’s Freedom

Guests: Family and friends of Can Atalay, Constituents of Hatay

Oct. 2: March for Hatay’s housing crisis

Guests: Hatay residents

Oct. 3: Earthquake crimes

Guests: Architects, engineers, lawyers

Oct. 4: March for Hatay’s water crisis

Guests: Hatay residents

(English version by Ayşenaz Toptaş)