March 4, 2019 / 2:14 PM / in 3 months

Turkish court accepts indictment against 16 over Gezi protests - lawyer

An anti-government protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask squats on top of a barricade during a protest at Taksim in central Istanbul July 20, 2013. Turkish police fired water cannon on Saturday to disperse hundreds of protesters who gathered to march to Gezi Park in central Istanbul, which has been at the heart of fierce demonstrations against Prime Minister Erdogan's rule. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish court accepted an indictment seeking life sentences against businessman and rights activist Osman Kavala and 15 others over the 2013 Gezi protests, Kavala’s lawyer said on Monday.

Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Istanbul in 2013 to protest against a plan to build a replica of an Ottoman barracks on Gezi park in the city centre. The protests turned into nationwide demonstrations against the government of then-prime minister Tayyip Erdogan.

Authorities recently launched a new investigation into the protests. The indictment, seen by Reuters, seeks life sentences against Kavala, other rights activists and opposition figures involved in the protests.

It said the defendants “at best wanted to force the government to resign or call early elections” and were making efforts “to prepare the grounds for a civil war or coup” if that did not happen.

Opposition figures have said the renewed investigations are designed to polarise public opinion and rally support for Erdogan ahead of local elections at the end of March.

The Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB), of which some defendants are members, said the indictment was part of efforts “to defame and sully the honourable history of Gezi.”

“We see the bad intentions despite all its dirtiness and we reject it with all our clarity,” TMMOB said in a statement published earlier on Monday.

In November, police detained more than a dozen people as part of the investigation into the Gezi protests. Billionaire philanthropist George Soros’s Open Society Foundation said it had become a target of the investigation and would cease operations in Turkey.

Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Dominic Evans

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