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Turkish police detain 22 during Saturday Mothers’ 953rd weekly demonstration

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Turkish police have detained 22 people, including activists and family members of the Saturday Mothers, during the group’s 953rd weekly demonstration in İstanbul’s Galatasaray Square, where they were demanding justice for their loved ones who disappeared in police custody in the 1990s.

Despite previous rulings by the Constitutional Court deeming police interventions a violation of the right to freedom of assembly and demonstration, the police have continued to obstruct the Saturday Mothers’ protests.

According to the group’s Twitter handle, at least 22 people were detained. Journalists were forcibly removed from the area and prevented from filming.

“In our 953rd week, we address President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya: Everyone, regardless of office or position, must be subject to the law. No one can put himself above the law and change the rules they way they want. Put an end to this lawlessness,” the group said in a statement, calling on the president and the interior minister to abide by the rulings of the Constitutional Court.

The Saturday Mothers, who first gathered on May 27, 1995, in Galatasaray Square on İstanbul’s İstiklal Street and have continued meeting there every Saturday for a silent protest since then, has staged the longest-running protest Turkey has ever witnessed.

The vigils, which saw the participation of larger numbers of people on landmark dates such as the 500th and 600th week, had been held peacefully without any restrictions by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government until the 700th week in 2018, when dozens of protestors were detained after police broke up the protest.

The trial of the 46 people who were detained during the 700th gathering and are facing charges of “participating in unlawful meetings and marches and refusing to disperse despite warnings and the use of force” is ongoing.

The Constitutional Court ruled on Nov. 16, 2022 that the police intervention in the 700th-week vigil was a violation of the right to freedom of assembly and demonstration.

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