Publication Date : Wednesday 17 December 2014 14:12
Turkish soccer fans deny trying to topple government
Thirty-five supporters of Turkish soccer club Besiktas, who have gone on trial on charges of seeking to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government in 2013 protests, have denied their charges.
The fans went on trial in Turkey's coastal city of Istanbul on Tuesday as hundreds of the club supporters held a protest outside the court in solidarity with the defendants who are all members of Besiktas’ main fan club, the Carsi Group.
Prosecutors have demanded life imprisonment for the accused over their involvement in organizing the protests that broke out in Istanbul's Taksim square in May 2013 and grew into a major challenge to then-Prime Minister Erdogan.
The indictment charges the fans with seeking to occupy Erdogan's Istanbul office near the Besiktas stadium "to create the appearance that a weakness of authority had emerged in the country."
Rights groups, however, have dismissed the charges as absurd.
"Charging these Besiktas football club fans as enemies of the state for joining a public protest is a ludicrous travesty," said Emma Sinclair-Webb, a prominent Turkish researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Turkish police have stepped up their crackdown on anti-government protesters since May 2013 when they broke up a sit-in at Istanbul’s Taksim Square against the proposed demolition of the Gezi Park.
Nationwide demonstrations were launched against the ruling Justice and Development Party and Erdogan. Several people lost their lives and thousands were injured in the protests. The Turkish government also arrested many activists.
Erdogan came under fire over the heavy-handed handling of the demonstrations.
In the latest development in the wave of arrests, Turkish police detained nearly 30 people including journalists and media staff across the country on Sunday.
They are accused of various charges including forgery, using intimidation and threats to form a gang to try and seize state sovereignty, and slander.