Disclaimer: Any private views expressed on this piece are these of the creator and never of the ICLB.

Written by Margaret Owen, Worldwide Trial Observer and Barrister

Friday 7 September

I used to be knowledgeable that Selahattin Demirtas (pictured), the imprisoned former co-chair of the professional Kurdish Peoples Democratic Social gathering (HDP), would eventually be showing in individual for this ultimate, sixth listening to. Selahattin Demirtas has been detained since November 2016 below anti-terror regulation. He faces varied prices and is accused of creating terrorist propaganda. Demirtas’ co-defendant is the HDP MP for Ankara, Siri Surreya Onder, who may even be current on the listening to.

I travelled to Istanbul to report on the trial as an Worldwide Observer from the UK. Exterior the Silivri jail compound I anticipated to search out crowds of Demirtas/HDP supporters. Upon my arrival on the jail nevertheless, it was eerily quiet, as other than a sizeable police presence, I discovered just a few hundred supporters, and shortly found that Demirtas himself wouldn’t be there in individual in any case; he could be delivering his defence to the terrorism prices by way of video hyperlink.”Look”, stated one feminine supporter, pointing to the sky. “You see the drone. The police need to establish who’s right here exterior the courtroom to allow them to examine us for supporting terrorism”.  It was the primary time I had seen a drone, like a black insect within the peaceable blue sky.

On the entrance to the courtroom I used to be joined by just a few different worldwide observers, from the Canadian, Swiss and Dutch embassies. The character of this trial would replicate the standing of Turkey’s justice system since Erdogan received the 2018 Presidential election, through which Demirtas additionally stood as a candidate from his jail cell. It’s a big occasion.

Within the huge courtroom itself (roughly 30 meters by 65 meters), we worldwide observers have been allotted seats within the center, however this was nowhere close to sufficient to obviously see and listen to occasions unfold. From the place we have been sitting it was tough to make out the figures of the decide, his two co-judges, the prosecutor and the group of defence attorneys. The supporters have been corralled into the very again of the courtroom, however within the centre and entrance, have been scores of police and jandarma. Enormous video screens have been positioned both facet of the rostrum. On the screens we may dimly make out the determine of Demirtas sitting at a desk, two Legal professionals both facet of him.

The Legal professionals started by repeating their protest that this trial is carried out with immense administrative and procedural irregularities because the prices of terrorism have been by no means put to the defendants in courtroom, contravening Article 7 of the Turkish Penal Code. The complete indictment was by no means learn in open courtroom in order that the defence may reply to it. Demirtas is alleged to have supplied a full defence to the courtroom, when in reality he has solely supplied one to the executive and procedural irregularities. The attorneys additional asserted that the poor high quality of the video hyperlink makes it unfit for a good trial and that their consumer ought to have been produced in individual.

Once more, as within the earlier hearings, the defence attorneys requested for the courtroom to nominate an unbiased skilled to look at the prosecutor’s transcript to establish all of the errors, deliberate, or negligent, that falsify the speeches made by the defendants in 2013. These errors made it appear as if each Demirtas and his co-defendant, Siri Surreya Onder, have been advocating violence, after they have been really pleading for a resumption of the peace course of. The unique prosecutor and Choose at the moment are themselves in jail, for involvement within the 2016 tried coup, making these proceedings significantly questionable. The decide refused these calls for, and advised the attorneys to maintain their speeches quick.

When it was Demirtas’ flip to talk, he defined that it was his poor well being that prevented him from showing in individual. For properly over an hour he produced newspaper after newspaper reporting on his 2013 Newroz speeches, which on the time have been according to President Erdogan’s personal insurance policies selling the peace course of. Demirtas said that “It’s not my want to assault the courtroom system, however you’ve gotten so manipulated and exploited the courtroom guidelines and mechanisms to destroy my probabilities of having a good trial”. He had solely acquired the prosecutors alleged findings and questions solely two days previous to this listening to, after they may have despatched them weeks, even months earlier, giving him correct time to reply.

Repeatedly, Demirtas denounced the Courtroom for completely ignoring the context through which his 2013 speeches got. He accused the prosecution of placing into the transcript phrases he had by no means used, and of inserting the title of the PKK (Kurdistan Staff’ Social gathering), when he had really spoken of the HDK (Peoples Democratic Congress) which was the authorized civil society organisation that was later renamed to the HDP, aka The Peoples Democratic Social gathering.

In 2013 when the peace course of was nonetheless working, the federal government really supported what Demirtas was saying. “Why don’t you learn these papers yourselves?” he requested, holding up a bunch of newspapers. “Why on earth would I be calling for violence simply when Erdogan too appears intent on dialogue for peace?” Demirtas prompt that the terrorism accusations are merely revenge for his and the HDP’s continuous advocacy for the peace course of that Erdogan stopped in 2015.

Later, MP Sirri Onder had his flip earlier than the decide, stating that he totally endorsed and adopted the defence of Demirtas. To our astonishment and pleasure, he turned on his laptop computer so we may hear the precise speech Demirtas made in 2013. Right here have been Demirtas’ personal phrases broadcast on TV, clear proof that the courtroom police transcripts have been false. Onder had requested the recording from a distinguished nationwide TV channel, Haber TV, in order to stop any suggestion of fabrication on his half.

There was rather more to listen to from Demirtas, and from Ondar, however the decide was displaying his impatience. At one level Demirtas accused him of not studying his 150 pages of solutions since he had solely submitted them that day, however the decide claimed he had learn each phrase.

By early afternoon, after a 10 minute adjournment, we the observers, have been allowed again in courtroom to listen to the decision. The supporters have been refused admission.

Each Demirtas and Onder have been discovered responsible of creating propaganda for a terrorist organisation. Demirtas was given a jail sentence of four years and eight months, while Onder acquired three years and 1 month. If the sentence is below 5 years, there may be no enchantment to the constitutional courtroom, which additional limits the appropriate to a good trial within the higher courts.

Demirtas stays in jail, and has many different indictments towards him, in Ankara and elsewhere. The prosecutor is asking for 145 years imprisonment. The attorneys for each Demirtas and Onder stated that they may enchantment the sentences.

Exterior the courtroom the heavy police presence made any organised press convention unimaginable, however stalwarts from the HDP managed to talk just a few phrases, decrying the decision, and vowing to proceed the wrestle for justice, peace, democracy and the Rule of Legislation. These are vital occasions in Turkey. The supporters exterior the courtroom, recognising that I’ve come from the UK, implored me to inform the World what is occurring. Hopefully this weblog will assist unfold the phrase.


Margaret exterior the Silivri jail compound.


There was a heavy police presence as MP Professor Dr Erol Katircioglu tried to make an announcement on the trial. Together with different Demirtas/HDP supporters, he challenged the decision and vowed to proceed the wrestle for the return of the Rule of Legislation and an unbiased judiciary in Turkey, and the discharge of hundreds of political prisoners.  


Very related to the context of this trial, illustrating the present police-state atmosphere in Turkey, are two different conferences I had throughout my quick keep in Istanbul. The primary one passed off on Friday, when coming back from the Silivri Jail courtroom, I met with three of the Saturday Moms, (the Cumartesi Anneleri) on the Istanbul places of work of the IHD (Human Rights Affiliation).

These are the courageous girls, (following the instance of the Argentinian Plaza De Mayo Moms) who, since 1995, have been protesting in silent vigil each different Saturday, in a number of cities throughout Turkey, holding pictures of their “misplaced” family members. They pay explicit focus to a piece of Istanbul’s well-known most important thoroughfare, the Istiklal.


 The three Saturday Moms. 

The three associated to me that two Saturdays in the past, on August 25th, because the Saturday Moms have been making ready for his or her 700th sit-in within the Istiklal, the police violently attacked, spraying them with tear gasoline and water, beating and arresting all 47 girls. Even their 82 12 months previous founder, Emila Ocak, was amongst these bundled into police vans and made to attend within the searing warmth for almost 10 hours. The ladies have been handcuffed and marched into the police station solely to be launched with out prices.

Hanife Yildiz wept as she described the disappearance in 1995 of her solely son, 19 12 months previous Murad. Maside Ocak, Emilia’s daughter, spoke of discovering her brother’s lifeless physique 15 days after the police had taken him away. All three girls described the police violence of the earlier Saturday they usually confirmed me their nonetheless seen bruises. Sebla Arcan advised me she suffered a minor coronary heart assault, one other girl had her fingers damaged as she was handcuffed, and several other girls sustained accidents and skilled respiration difficulties, however the police refused them medical consideration. “We have been handled like animals, like sub-humans” Arcan stated, “However we’ll proceed our protests tomorrow regardless that we’re advised we cannot assemble as we’ve got accomplished for 700 Saturdays.” The assaults on these girls present the lengths that the Erdogan administration will go to silence all opposition.


Art work of the Saturday Moms








The following assembly I had, passed off on Saturday. It was the second day of a rare three day Worldwide Legislation Convention: The Darkish Facet of the Moon, which introduced collectively a bunch of distinguished attorneys from Turkey and the world over. Its theme was “THE NORMALIZATION OF THE STATE OF EMERGENCY AND THE SITUATION OF THE JUDICIARY IN TURKEY”. Nonetheless, arriving on Iskitlal to entry the venue, I discovered that the Galatasaray part of the road, the place the Saturday Moms repeatedly assemble for his or her vigil, had been closed off, and there have been plenty of police surrounding the steel limitations. Nearly all the large outlets have been shut and I needed to stroll over a mile to get spherical to the opposite finish of the road in order to entry the convention centre.


Convention platform at The Darkish Facet of the Moon. 

Fairly a superb array of audio system have been on the occasion. They described the present violence in Turkey, the assaults on freedom of speech and meeting, the assault on attorneys and the appropriate to defence, and summarising the appalling influence of the State of Emergency on folks’s lives within the context of each Turkish and worldwide regulation. Among the many convention audio system have been many internationally acclaimed human rights attorneys reminiscent of our personal Professor Invoice Bowring, Thomas Schmidt of the European Affiliation of Legal professionals for Democracy, and the eloquent Dominique Attias, Vice-President of the European Bar Affiliation. Attias positioned the duty firmly on all of us as attorneys to do every little thing in our energy to revive the Rule of Legislation and the independence of the judiciary to Turkey by utilizing each out there means.

In Turkey, there are such a lot of attorneys both in jail or going through investigations and prosecutions. Leaving the Convention early to get to the airport, I puzzled simply how secure those that observe regulation are from arrest and detention with none probability of a good trial. The assaults on the attorneys and the Saturday Moms, and even the decision within the Demirtas trial are all linked, illustrating the Erdogan administration’s intention to painting any opposition, any criticism of the area, any pleas for justice, as proof of supporting terrorism.

The few days I spent in Turkey have been a clarion name to each certainly one of us privileged sufficient to be practising regulation in a free society. We should redouble our efforts to assist our fellow attorneys in international locations, reminiscent of Turkey, the place their rights are endangered. So I weblog within the hope that studying it will encourage extra attorneys to attend, observe and report on these political trials and the iniquities of the Decree Legal guidelines.


To learn a duplicate of certainly one of Demirtas’ 2013 Newroz speeches, click on right here:

Demirtas Speech at Newroz 2013

And to learn the official HDP press launch on the Demirtas and Onder verdict, click on beneath:

HDP – statement on the Demirtaş and Önder verdict

Cowl picture supply: www.moderndiplomacy.eu

Pictures provided by Margaret Owen



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