Turkey: Gezi Park protesters on trial in 'scandalous' case

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Turkey: Gezi Park protesters on trial in 'scandalous' case

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Twenty six people are on trial in Istanbul in a prosecution Amnesty International has described as scandalous.

The defendants join more than 5,000 people in nearly 100 cases, all on charges linked to unrest that challenged Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decade in power.

In the latest court case, five of the defendants are accused of forming a criminal organisation — which they deny — and could face up to 30 years in prison, lawyers said.

“It is an absolutely scandalous prosecution that should never have been brought to court,” Andrew Gardner, Turkish researcher for Amnesty International, said earlier this week.

“The indictment is completely without evidence of a crime, in the understanding of international human rights law and Turkey’s own laws…The right to peaceful assembly is being put on trial,” he told a news conference.

Most of the defendants in the latest court case are part of a group of professionals, activists and business owners who opposed Erdogan’s plans for Gezi Park, one of the few public green spaces in Europe’s biggest city.

Last year, a peaceful protest against plans to raze Gezi Park to make way for a shopping centre resulted in a heavy-handed police crackdown. The situation mushroomed into nationwide anti-government demonstrations.

At least six people died in clashes with police. The Turkish Medical Association says 10,000 were seriously hurt.