Gezi’s symbolic ‘lady in red’ files lawsuit against PM Erdoğan

Ceyda Sungur, a young woman who became well known after a photograph of her being sprayed with tear gas at close range while wearing a red dress during last summer’s Gezi protests, has filed a lawsuit against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then-Interior Minister Muammer Güler and İstanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu for the heavy-handed use of tear gas which, according to her lawyer, constitutes use of chemical weapons, and the authorities’ violent crackdown on peaceful protesters.

Attending a hearing during the trial of Fatih Zengin, the police officer who sprayed Sungur, lawyer İlkay Bahçetepe asked the court to refer Sungur to the Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) to establish whether Sungur had suffered any effects from being gassed at such close range. A protester in the southern province of Mersin died of cancer 10 months after being sprayed in the mouth by tear gas.

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A photo showing Sungur’s hair flying upward from the force of a jet of pepper spray fired by riot police became a widely distributed symbol during the summer of 2013, when anti-government protests rocked the country. The officer who fired the pepper spray is currently on trial; the prosecution is asking for a jail sentence of up to three years.

While Sungur attended the hearing held at the İstanbul 18th Criminal Court of Peace, Zengin did not attend the session in person. Sungur’s lawyer accused the prime minister and other top officials of committing a crime by using chemical weapons, claiming that tear gas and pepper spray fall into categories of chemical weapons.

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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