Illegal Force in Turkey|at 2004 NATO Protest

     (CN) – Turkish officials used excessive force on demonstrators during a 2004 protest of the Istanbul NATO summit, an EU court ruled.
     The June 29 demonstration, 500-strong, was organized by the Turkish trade union association KESK. Police in full riot gear looked on as organizers read a statement to the press and participants began to disperse.
     The scene quickly turned violent, however, after a smaller group of 70 demonstrators, carrying flags of nongovernment organization Halkevleri Dernegi, attacked police with sticks and stones. Police used tear gas and truncheons to disperse the group. Nearby shops were damaged and six officers were wounded.
     Serdar Guler and Savas Kurtulus Ongel were among those arrested. Truncheon blows left Guler with bruises on his arms, shoulders, waist and legs. Ongel sustained injuries to the shoulder, back and face.
     Guler and Ongel were indicted for taking part in an illegal demonstration and failing to disperse. But they were acquitted after a video of the scene showed that they were not among the attackers.
     The pair then mounted an unsuccessful suit against the arresting officers. A Turkish judge ruled that attacks by demonstrators justified the police response.
     But the European Union Court of Justice in Strausbourg, France, overturned the ruling. Although a small group had attacked police, the court held that ensuing force used against uninvolved protesters and bystanders had not been justified.
     Turkey owes Guler and Ongel 9,000 euros each, plus legal costs and fees.

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