Detained Istanbul University student Berkay Ustabaş, Grup Yorum member Helin Bölek and four detained defendants appeared before the judges at Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 26 for having attended the funeral on 11 March 2014 of Berkin Elvan, who was seriously injured after being struck by a gas canister fired by the police in Okmeydanı during the Gezi resistance and passed away following a 269-day fight to stay alive. The court bench ordered the extension of the detained defendants’ detention and adjourned the hearing until 11 November in its interim ruling.
Protest from lawyers
Noting that the charges in the indictment were attending the funeral and carrying a placard, Grup Yorum member Helin Bölek said, “Three million people attended Berkin’s funeral. Hundreds of placards were carried. Charges have been laid over the placard we were carrying. I do not think that attending Berkin’s funeral is a crime. If only you had shown the same interest shown in the placards in finding Berkin’s murderers.”
Bölek’s lawyer wanted to make a comment to the presiding judge about her client’s defence. The presiding judge, saying that lawyer Çiğdem Akbulut was speaking without having obtained permission, ordered her to be removed from the courtroom. A recess was taken in the hearing following an argument that broke out between the lawyers and the court bench. Following the recess, Bölek said she would not present her defence because her lawyer was not in the courtroom. Many lawyers protested the decision not to admit Akbulut to the courtroom by not entering the courtroom.
Bench’s decisions are political
Berkay Ustabaş, in turn, said in the defence he submitted via video link that the decisions the court and court bench had taken over three hearings were political. Saying, “This trial has two sides,” Ustabaş remarked, “One of them is political, while one of them is legal. In the order for the continuation of my detention at past hearings it is stated that I chanted the slogan, ‘Martyrs of the revolution are immortal.’ But, there is no such thing either in the police case report nor in the prosecution’s indictment. It is stated in the indictment that I acted in consort with Adil Kayan. However, when we look at the images contained in the indictment, we see that this is not so. According to police records, 100,000 people chanted the slogan, ‘Martyrs of the revolution are immortal,’ but only two people have been charged and are being tried. Additionally, I do not think this slogan entails a crime.” Saying, “I made my way to the prosecutor on this investigation and gave a statement,” Ustabaş went on to note, put briefly, that he had not been under arrest but had been placed in detention; had he not gone to give a statement that would have been the end of it but he went of his own volition free from reproach and with his head held high.
In the ruling it passed, the court bench ordered the extension of detention and adjourned the hearing until 1 November.
“Children are killed and then accused”
Prior to the hearing, Ustabaş’s and Bölek’s friends and relatives made a press statement in front of the judicial complex. CHP Istanbul MP Ali Şeker, HDP MPs Serpil Kemalbay, Züleyha Gülüm and Hüda Kaya, Freedom and Solidarity Party Chairship Board Member Alper Taş, CHP Deputy Provincial Chair Saniye Yurdakul, Berkin Elvan’s mother Gülsüm Elvan and a large number of citizens took part in the statement.
Speaking during the statement, Gülsüm Elvan demanded justice for Ustabaş, asking, “What did my child do? I call out to the Minister of Justice and Minister of the Interior. Out with it and explain what my child is guilty of. But, unfortunately, today in our country it has become a country in which children are killed and then turned into the object of accusations. I sent my child for bread and they gave me his blood-stained shirt. I wonder which child’s head the murderer who shot my child will shoot at.”