On Monday 21 April, I will be in a courtroom in Izmir, observing the second hearing in the ‘Twitter case’ against 29 men and women who are being accused of ‘inciting the public to break the law’. Their crime? Sending out tweets during the first few days of the Gezi Park protests last June. If found guilty, they could face up to 3 years in prison.
During the protests that began in Istanbul’s Gezi Park and Taksim Square and quickly spread around the country in June 2013, social media played a central role, allowing protestors to share information on where police were breaking up the protests or to request medical support or information on individuals whose whereabouts were unclear. With the mainstream media failing to report the events, social media platforms also allowed the public to find out what was going on in the streets.
The authorities and chiefly the Prime Minister responded by attacking the use of Twitter and other social media. The day after the Prime Minister famously called Twitter a ‘menace’, arrests were carried out in the western city of Izmir for tweeting about the protests. The PM is himself listed as a “victim” in the case. In the last month, both Twitter and YouTube have been blocked in Turkey. While the ban on Twitter has been lifted, the authorities continue to threaten its closure.
Following the arrests, in February, the trial of 29 young men and women began at a court in Izmir. The majority of the people on trial are students, aged between 19 and 36 They stand accused of ‘inciting the public to break the law’ for tweets they had sent supporting the protests, reporting police violence, or calling for medical aid. Some are accused of insulting the Prime Minister.
It is truly bizarre that 29 individuals should be brought to a court to defend their few handpicked tweets. None of the tweets contain incitement to or evidence of participation in violence’ or anything else that could be called criminal. They are simply sharing information and opinions – and it is their right to do so. In short, this case should never have been brought.
I will be tweeting the developments from the courtroom on Monday.
What can you do?
Show your solidarity with them through the much reviled Twitter!
Retweet one of the defendants’ tweets shown below, which is cited in the case sheet against one of the defendants.
Here is the English translation of @ozquner’s tweet:
We are resisting under the rain, come on Izmir to Gundogdu #resistizmir #resistgezipark #geziparkinizmir
Tweet at Turkey’s Prime Minister, letting him know what you think:
- .@RT_Erdogan Exchanging information on twitter is not a crime #dropthecharges #IzmirTwitterCase
- .@RT_Erdogan Asking for help on twitter in the face of police violence is not a crime #dropthecharges #IzmirTwitterCase
- .@RT_Erdogan Calling ppl out to peacefully demonstrate vs police violence isn’t incitement to break to law #IzmirTwitterCase #dropthecharges
Get updates from the courtroom as they happen on Monday by following Andrew Gardner on Twitter @andrewegardner