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27 more May Day demonstrators detained in house raids in İstanbul

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Turkish police detained 27 more people who resisted law enforcement in İstanbul on May Day in an attempt to hold a demonstration in central Taksim Square despite a government ban, in the third wave of detentions targeting the demonstrators, the Birgün daily reported.

The people detained on Tuesday are among 39 for whom İstanbul prosecutors issued the latest detention warrants. Efforts are under way to detain the remaining 12 suspects.

They are mostly from left-wing and socialist groups and are accused of attacking the riot police with sticks and rocks on May 1 while they attempted to make their way to Taksim Square from Saraçhane to mark International Workers’ Day.

Some 200 demonstrators who tried to get to Taksim Square, which has symbolic importance, were detained on May 1. Demonstrators were also taken into custody in the following days on accusations that they resisted law enforcement by trying to break through the police barrier to reach Taksim.

Forty-eight of the detainees were subsequently arrested. The others were released, some under judicial supervision.

The detentions were carried out after the identification of the demonstrators based on video recordings and facial recognition technology.

The Interior Ministry and the İstanbul Governor’s Office announced before May Day that no demonstrations would be allowed in Taksim due to security concerns, sparking a backlash from opposition parties, labor unions and civil society groups who said the ban was “unconstitutional.”

The symbolic importance of Taksim Square stems from the killing of 34 people by unknown assailants on May Day in 1977. The area has become a subject of tension and confrontation between the government and labor unions in the days leading up to May Day since 2013.

Until 2009, Taksim was off limits to demonstrators following Bloody May Day in 1977. About three decades after the incident, under tight security, Taksim Square became the venue of peaceful demonstrations aside from a few minor incidents in 2010, 2011 and 2012. The area was closed to demonstrations again in 2013 out of security concerns.

Meanwhile, more than 100 individuals well known in Turkish society including writers, journalists, lawmakers and others recently signed a letter in which they called for the release of the 48 arrestees and said seeking to hold a May Day demonstration in Taksim Square is not a crime.

The signatories of the letter called on the government to comply with a Constitutional Court decision last year that found violations of the right to free assembly in the controversial ban in addition to Article 34 of the Turkish Constitution, which says, “Everyone has the right to hold unarmed and peaceful meetings and demonstration marches without prior permission.”

The letter was launched by the “Hepsini Alacağız” (We will get them all back), a group established in solidarity with the May Day arrestees.

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