News / Europe

Turkish Court Blocks Disputed Park Project

Protesters are detained by plainclothes police during an anti-government protest at Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 29, 2013.
Protesters are detained by plainclothes police during an anti-government protest at Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 29, 2013.
Reuters
A Turkish court has canceled an Istanbul building project backed by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan which provided the trigger for nationwide anti-government demonstrations last month, a copy of the court decision showed.

Authorities may well appeal against cancelation of  plans for a replica Ottoman-era barracks on Istanbul's Taksim Square. But the ruling marked a victory for a coalition of political forces and a blow for Erdogan, who stood fast against  protests and riots he said were stoked by terrorists and looters.

Can Atalay, a lawyer for the Chamber of Architects which brought the lawsuit, said the administrative court ruled in early June at the height of the unrest that the plan violated preservation rules and unacceptably changed the square's identity. It was not clear why it had only now been released.

“This decision applies to all of the work at Taksim Square ... The public-works project that was the basis for the work has been canceled,” Atalay told Reuters.

Erdogan has said he would wait for the judiciary to rule, and any appeals process, before proceeding with Taksim, one of several large projects for Istanbul, including a huge  airport, an enormous Mosque and a canal to ease Bosphorus traffic.

June's protests and riots began when police used water cannon and tear gas against a relatively small protest over the plans to redevelop Taksim and the adjacent Gezi Park.  The heavy handed police action stirred unprecedented actions against Erdogan, accusing him of an increasingly authoritarian style.

Four people were killed and some 7,500 wounded in the police crackdown, according to the Turkish Medical Association. It largely ended when police cleared a protest camp on the square on June 15.

Unprecedented protests

The protests were unprecedented in Erdogan's rule, which began in 2002 with the election of his AK Party. He has pressed  significant reforms in the economy and curtailed the power of a military that had toppled four governments in four decades.

Opponents argue that he has become authoritarian in his rule after three election victories and during the June unrest turned increasingly to the Islamist core of his AK Party faithful.

If the country's top administrative court subsequently rules in favor of the development, Erdogan has still pledged to hold a referendum in Istanbul on the government's plan.

A press adviser at city hall, which drafted the development plan, did not return phone calls seeking comment. Court officials also could not be reached.

“I expect the other side will definitely appeal this decision but in the meantime, they must abide by it and that means removing police from Taksim and allowing citizens to return to Gezi Park,” Atalay told Reuters.

Gezi has been shut to the public since June 15 when police stormed the park and pushed out the protesters.

Taksim carries enormous symbolic value for many Turks of different political stripes.

It was the site of a 1977 May Day massacre that killed up to 40 leftists. For secular Turks, its development in the early days of the republic represent the nation's founding principles, while devout Muslims have long sought to build a mosque there.

Erdogan, whose ruling party traces its roots to a banned Islamist movement, has said that his effort to remake Taksim aims to return it to its original form. He also said he would erect a mosque at the Square and rebuild the Ataturk Cultural Center, named after Turkey's secular-minded founder.

There are other lawsuits against aspects of Taksim's redevelopment. Atalay said this ruling takes precedence since it involves the master plan for the square.

The changes to Taksim include an underground tunnel network for traffic to pedestrianize the square and razing Gezi Park to build the replica Ottoman-era barracks that Erdogan originally said would be a mall, then a city museum.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs