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198 authors, poets condemn Gezi Park trial verdict in joint statement

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One hundred ninety-eight members of the Turkish literary world, including prominent authors and poets, have released a joint statement to condemn the verdict in the Gezi Park trial earlier this week, saying, “We’re not afraid, we’re not bowing down” in the face of “unlawfulness, oppression and persecution,” local media reported on Friday.

An İstanbul court on Monday sentenced businessman and rights defender Osman Kavala to life in prison and his seven co-defendants to 18 years each on charges related to the anti-government Gezi Park protests of 2013.

“No sovereign can afford to unlawfully condemn the resistance of millions [in Gezi Park] to intimidate the society. What is being condemned here is the democratic and peaceful objection of the country’s citizens, which was exhibited for the future of the country,” the literary figures said in the statement released on Friday.

Noting that they consider the punishments in the Gezi Park trial to have been given to all of them, the writers and poets added: “We’re not afraid, we’re not bowing down. We add our voice to the voice of life and resistance to help our country free itself from this grip of unlawfulness, oppression and persecution.”

Among the signatories of the statement were prominent novelist Elif Şafak, writer and poet Murathan Mungan, poet Birhan Keskin, author and poet Ahmet Ümit, writer and singer Zülfü Livaneli, Sema Kaygusuz, a novelist, playwright, essayist and short-story writer, and Buket Uzuner, the author of many novels, short stories and travelogues.

The joint statement comes after 177 actors, directors and scriptwriters on Wednesday signed a petition titled “Open call from filmmakers” in which they also condemned the Gezi Park trial verdict, which they said was “clearly aimed at building an empire of fear” and demanded the support of other filmmakers.

The Turkish Union of Engineers and Architects Chambers (TMMOB) and its trade unions also launched a “Justice Vigil” in protest of the verdict, staging the first one in front of their branch in İstanbul’s Beyoğlu district on Thursday and saying they will continue holding the vigil between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. every day.

The protests in 2013 erupted over government plans to demolish Gezi Park in Taksim. They quickly turned into mass anti-government demonstrations that were violently suppressed by the government, leading to the death of 11 protestors due to the use of disproportionate force by the police.

A leading figure in Turkey’s civil society, 64-year-old Kavala was born in Paris, educated in the UK and ran a cultural center before being thrust to prominence. He was accused of financing protests against the then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government during large-scale protests in 2013 and involvement in a failed military coup in 2016. Monday’s ruling only covered the case stemming from the 2013 unrest.

Kavala’s plight had soured relations between Ankara and Western nations, and a diplomatic crisis was triggered last year when Turkey threatened to expel 10 Western ambassadors, including the US envoy, after they demanded Kavala’s release.

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