Thirteen suspects were detained in nationwide operations on Friday in an investigation into the 2013 Gezi Park riots. The suspects, detained as part of an investigation that saw the arrest of prominent tycoon Osman Kavala earlier, are accused of attempting to spread the 2013 riots that started in Istanbul to the country and "creating chaos with the ultimate intent to overthrow the government."
Most suspects are members of the Anadolu Kültür association Kavala chaired. Among those detained were academics Betül Tanbay Tüten, Turgut Tarhanlı, Ali Hakan Altınay, chairman of the Open Society Foundation and film producer Çiğdem Mater Utku. Police are searching for seven other suspects in the case. Kavala, a prominent business tycoon with a shady background, was detained last year. He is known for his close ties to the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), a party linked to the PKK terrorist group. The businessman was named the "Turkish Soros" for his links to the controversial Hungarian-American tycoon, and he is well-known for his support of the 2013 Gezi Park riots in Istanbul.
A statement by the Turkish National Police on Friday said Kavala sought to overthrow the government by force through the Gezi Park incidents and used the Open Society and Anadolu Kültür to finance and organize the riots. Suspects "under a hierarchy" held meetings and brought in activists from abroad to stoke riots, police sources said.
On May 31, 2013, Turkish police intervened in what began as a peaceful protest against the redevelopment of Gezi Park adjacent to Taksim Square at the heart of Istanbul. What followed were nationwide riots that led to the torching of cars, public property and injuries in a matter of a few days. The riots were the work of terrorist groups the PKK and the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) along with fringe factions linked to them. Portrayed as Arab Spring-style riots in the Western media, protesters garnered support even among moderate critics of the government despite their utter violence. The fate of Gezi Park, where officials had plans to rebuild an Ottoman-era building that were thwarted when red tape caused delays in redevelopment plans, are still in limbo. However, for rioters, the protests were a show of force for terrorist groups.
An investigation launched after the July 15, 2016 coup attempt points to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), the main culprit in the coup attempt, for fueling the tensions that turned peaceful protests over Gezi Park into violent riots. The city's police chief during the riots was detained amid concerns that the aggressive use of force by police in the Gezi Park protests may have been the product of a plot by Gülenists to foment chaos. The latest inquiries reveal that FETÖ-linked police officers that held key posts during the Gezi Park riots contributed to the escalation of violence. Ramazan Emekli and Yunus Dolar, two senior police chiefs, are accused of ordering the burning down of tents set up by protesters at Gezi Park, something that provoked rioters toward further violence and targeting police, while Yunus Dolar, another police chief, is accused of ordering the rough treatment of protesters and rioters.