Police intervention in a demonstration held in central İstanbul by a group wanting to mark the ninth anniversary of the anti-government Gezi Park protests and commemorate the activists killed in the 2013 events has resulted in the detention of at least 170 people, local media reported on Tuesday, citing the İstanbul Governor’s Office.
Millions of people across Turkey took to the streets to denounce President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s increasingly authoritarian leadership in May and June 2013. The protests were sparked by opposition to Justice and Development Party (AKP) government plans to demolish Gezi Park in Taksim. They quickly turned into mass anti-government demonstrations that were violently suppressed by the AKP, leading to the death of 11 protestors due to the use of disproportionate force by the police.
A group of protesters, who on Tuesday gathered in Beyoğlu at 6:30 p.m. for a march to Gezi Park, saw police barricades blocking the entrance to the park. Police used truncheons and pepper spray to prevent protestors from crossing the barricade, according to Turkish media reports.
Earlier on Tuesday members of the Turkish Workers’ Party (TİP) were also prevented from entering Taksim Square, with police officers detaining at least 50 of them.
According to a statement released by the İstanbul Governor’s Office on Tuesday, 170 people were detained during police intervention in events marking the ninth anniversary of the 2013 protests.
Three journalists from Flash TV were among those detained, local media reports said.
The Artı Gerçek news website also said in a report on Wednesday that among the protestors battered by police during the protests were TİP İstanbul lawmaker Ahmet Şık and journalist Engin Açar, a correspondent for the pro-opposition TELE1 TV station who had been briefly detained on Monday for reporting on the damage suffered by the iconic Hagia Sophia.
In the press statement the protestors read on İstiklal Street since they were prevented by police from entering Gezi Park, they called on the AKP government to release defendants in the Gezi Park trial, including prominent businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala.
“Stop keeping Osman Kavala, Çiğdem Mater, Mine Özerden and Hakan Altınay in prison and making them a part of your calculations for [the upcoming] election. Release our friends Ayşe Mücella Yapıcı, Tayfun Kahraman and Şerafettin Can Atalay, the gracious representatives of Taksim Solidarity of Gezi!” the demonstrators’ statement said.
An İstanbul court on April 25 sentenced Kavala, who had been behind bars without a conviction for over four years, to aggravated life and his co-defendants to 18 years each on charges of instigating the anti-government Gezi Park protests in 2013.