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Turkey allows decades-old Saturday Mothers’ vigil after 5-year ban: report

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Members of a group of relatives of victims of enforced disappearances in Turkey held a vigil on Saturday in central İstanbul without police intervention for the first time since 2018, Reuters reported.

The resumption of the “Saturday Mothers” vigil comes after Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya on Wednesday said the government had “good intentions” and that a peaceful solution would be found, responding to questions by opposition lawmakers during a parliamentary session.

The group’s protest, involving around 10 people and held at Galatasaray Square near the Taksim district in central İstanbul, was its 972nd such vigil, it said in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“We will not stop searching for all our missing people and demanding that the perpetrators be tried and punished,” it said.

Turkish police had in 2018 told the Saturday Mothers that their protest – seeking justice for relatives who in the 1980s and ’90s were kidnapped or detained without record – was banned and dispersed with water cannon and tear gas.

Members of the group went on trial in 2021 on charges of refusing to disperse despite police warnings, and for the past five years police have been dispersing and detaining members of the group every Saturday when they attempt to stage their protest.

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, followed by a similar decision in February of this year.

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