4 out of 13 academics detained for organizing Gezi protests released

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A scene from Turkey's famous Gezi Park protests, held in June 2013.

Four out of 13 academics who were detained on Friday morning on accusations of organizing and financing the Gezi Park protests of 2013 and having organizational ties to jailed businessman and activist Osman Kavala were released later in the day, but they face a travel ban.

The academics who were released after testifying to prosecutors at the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office are Prof. Dr. Turgut Tarhanlı (dean of the faculty of law at İstanbul Bilgi University), Asena Günal (Anadolu Kültür Foundation program coordinator), Bora Sarı (Anadolu Kültür employee) and Meltem Aslan Çelikkan (Anadolu Kültür general coordinator).

The detainees are accused of fomenting chaos to destroy the Republic of Turkey by attempting to expand the Gezi Park protests throughout the country, according to a police statement distributed to the press.

The Gezi Park protests took place in the summer of 2013 in reaction to the government’s attempt to destroy one of the few green spaces left in Istanbul and turned into a major protest against the policies of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The police targeted academics at the Anadolu Kültür Foundation, which is linked to Kavala, and the Open Society Foundation for creating chaos through the Gezi Park protests.

The other detainees are Ali Hakan Altınay (president of Açık Toplum Foundation), Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi (Anadolu Kültür acting CEO), Ayşegül Güzel (Anadolu Kültür), Çiğdem Mater (advisor at Anadolu Kültür), Prof. Dr. Betül Tanbay (academic at Boğaziçi University), Hande Özhabeş (communications coordinator at the Association for the Development of Civil Society), Filiz Telek (Anadolu Kültür) and Yiğit Aksakoğlu (Civil Society Education Department of İstanbul Bilgi University).

Detention warrants were issued for 20 people in total according to the police.

Organizing protests during the Gezi Park events and bringing activists from Europe are cited as reasons for the detentions in the police statement. The academics were also accused of “efforts to create a new media outlet” to keep the Gezi Park protests on the nation’s agenda.

A massive purge targeting academics has been ongoing in Turkey since a failed coup on July 15, 2016.

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