Anoth­er act in Kur­dish politi­cian Sela­hat­tin Demir­taş’ tri­al took place last Jan­u­ary 7th in the 19th Cham­ber of Ankara’s Penal Tribunal. 

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The for­mer Co-Pres­i­dent of the Peo­ples’ Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty (HDP) par­tic­i­pat­ed in the hear­ing from the Type F prison where he is jailed in Edirne, dis­trict of Sin­can via the SEGBIS video­con­fer­enc­ing sys­tem. He was arrest­ed on Novem­ber 4th 2016, along with many oth­er mem­bers of his Par­ty, then jailed.

He is at risk of 142 years in prison for ter­ror­ism. Among oth­er things, he is accused of found­ing and lead­ing a (ter­ror­ist) orga­ni­za­tion. The indict­ment rests on 31 inquest state­ments sub­mit­ted to the Turk­ish Par­lia­ment dur­ing his man­date as Deputy, in order to obtain the lift­ing of his par­lia­men­tary immunity.

Para­dox­i­cal­ly, the tri­bunal had revoked this arrest war­rant against Demir­taş fol­low­ing the hear­ing on Sep­tem­ber 2 2019. But, as he was sen­tenced to more than four years in jail in anoth­er case, he was not freed from prison.

This hear­ing was about the tri­al described as “the main tri­al” in which Sela­hat­tin Demir­taş was sup­posed to be heard as a free man, accord­ing to the pros­e­cu­tion’s deci­sion. But since his cap­tiv­i­ty was main­tained and all the files were being exam­ined by tri­bunals in dif­fer­ent towns, he must defend him­self via video­con­fer­ence. This is the case for many polit­i­cal pris­on­ers sub­ject­ed to depor­ta­tion toward pris­ons far from their homes and from the tri­bunals hear­ing their case.


Today, the pre­sid­ing judge declared that the trans­la­tion of the deci­sion pro­nounced by the Euro­pean Tri­bunal of Human Rights for vio­la­tion of Sela­hat­tin Demir­taş’ rights had indeed been added to the file.

As for the indict­ments in the oth­er tri­als pre­vi­ous­ly opened against him in Istan­bul, Ankara, Adana, Erzu­rum, Elazığ and Mersin, they were added to the “main” file. The defence lawyers there­fore asked for a sup­ple­men­tary delay, in order to pre­pare the defence on these ele­ments since they are being con­sid­ered anew. One of these pieces of evi­dence con­cerns a pho­to­graph of Demir­taş, tak­en with PKK lead­ers in Qandil, dur­ing the “res­o­lu­tion” peri­od. Which is to say, in total legal­i­ty, since it dates from a peri­od when the Turk­ish State itself was sit­ting at the table with lead­ers of the orga­ni­za­tion, nego­ti­at­ing in order to find a solu­tion to the “Kur­dish question”.

Oratorical Jousting

Inter­ven­ing lawyers crit­i­cized the fact the defence con­cern­ing these oth­er files was con­sid­ered to have been already “com­plet­ed” and plead­ed dur­ing the pre­ced­ing hear­ing on Sep­tem­ber 2. They asked that this con­sid­er­a­tion be removed, in con­for­mi­ty with the prin­ci­ple of an equi­table judg­ment. Lawyer Mehmet Emin Aktar recalled that the doc­u­ment deposed to jus­ti­fy their absence at the tri­al had been unjust­ly reject­ed by the tri­bunal. The judge answered: “We learned of your absence through the media on inter­net”. The lawyer then replied “And we had read on Anadolu Ajan­si (State news agency) while Demir­taş’ inter­ro­ga­tion was still ongo­ing, that he was incarcerated!”

Con­cern­ing the defence treat­ed as “com­plet­ed” on the oth­er files, Demir­taş announced “I will pur­sue my defence. I also hope that you will not lim­it my right to a defence. If you intend tak­ing a deci­sion with­out ask­ing your­selves what the accused thinks about 5–6 indict­ments, this would be an extreme­ly seri­ous sit­u­a­tion. But if you ren­der a ver­dict accord­ing to which it was decid­ed to silence Sela­hat­tin Demir­taş, I will be silent. In the oppo­site case, I will not be silent, I will speak.”

Curtain drawn on the documents

Lawyer Aygül Demir­taş then men­tioned that, accord­ing to the judge, some twen­ty doc­u­ments “would be” added to the file. “We con­sult­ed the file no lat­er than yes­ter­day, those doc­u­ments were not avail­able yet. You hold on to the file as if it were your monop­oly. As lawyers, we can­not access doc­u­ments filed in the indict­ment. That is also a vio­la­tion of the prin­ci­ple of an equi­table trial.”

Demir­taş under­lined that the fact the doc­u­ments sub­mit­ted to the court were hid­den being con­trary to the prin­ci­ple of an equi­table tri­al, proved there was no longer a judi­cia­ry sys­tem in Turkey. “Our arrest pro­vid­ed fur­ther proof of this. The arrests of oth­er oppo­si­tion activists, of defendors of human rights and of jour­nal­ists pur­sue this same objec­tive, as does the clos­ing down of oppo­si­tion media, under the excuse of an attempt­ed coup d’Etat.”

Vaudeville for the observers

A num­ber of observers have fol­lowed the hear­ing, includ­ing polit­i­cans from the HDP, the CHP (Peo­ple’s Repub­li­can Par­ty) and SKYP (Social­ist Recon­struc­tion Par­ty). A del­e­ga­tion of Lawyers with­out bor­ders, led by Swedish lawyer Per Stadig was refused access, for “lack of accred­i­ta­tion”. Lawyers Per Stadig and Stende Geer had come from Swe­den to observe the hear­ing. How­ev­er, they were not autho­rized entry into the jail in Sin­can where the hear­ing was to be held. Some five hours lat­er, the Coun­cil of judges decid­ed they could come in, long after the two lawyers had left the cam­pus after declar­ing they had come to Turkey on sev­er­al occa­sion in the past to observe hear­ings and had nev­er encoun­tered such a situation.

Following the intermission…

Sela­hat­tin Demir­taş spoke: “There are alle­ga­tions about the fact the motive for the arrest is polit­i­cal and that each step in the judg­ment is car­ried out with the same motive. The aim here is not to ren­der a judg­ment. It is a meet­ing orga­nized so that the AKP’s pow­er objec­tivess, and par­tic­u­lar­ly those of its Pres­i­dent Erdo­gan, may come to fruition and the oppo­si­tion be liquidated.”

He added, “Did we oppose the con­sti­tu­tion­al order? Did we attempt to over­throw it? No. At this very moment the con­sti­tu­tion­al order is being sup­pressed. A regime of a sin­gle man is being put in place. Instead of “dic­ta­tor­ship” it is called “com­pet­i­tive author­i­tar­i­an­ism”. And every per­son who oppos­es the sin­gle man’s regime is targeted.”

As for the deci­sion ren­dered by the Euro­pean Tri­bunal of Human Rights, “In Stras­burg, dur­ing a hear­ing held before the judges of 17 coun­tries, I am not the one who was being judged, but your ver­dicts were. Over there, the ver­dicts were those of all the mem­bers of jus­tice tak­ing part in this process.”

Con­cern­ing his recent health prob­lems, Demir­taş declared: “Had my health allowed I would have been present in Ankara, but that was not pos­si­ble. I was tak­en to the hos­pi­tal on three occa­sions. Exam­i­na­tions are ongo­ing. Fol­low­ing a treat­ment, there will be fur­ther exam­i­na­tions. The elec­tro­car­dio­gram revealed that my heart was clean. I told the doc­tor “I know, I have a clean heart” (said laugh­ing­ly). The doc­tor sug­gest­ed I change my lifestyle. Pri­or to the med­ical vis­it, I walked from left to right in the prison quar­ters, now I walk from right to left…”

Demir­taş under­lined the fact the AKP has built a struc­ture with­in the State that is even more deeply linked to it, and more dan­ger­ous than it was before, that this orgniza­tion extends its ten­ta­cles to the judi­cia­ry, the media, busi­ness­es and pol­i­tics, and the the Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Direc­torate at (Erdo­gan’s) Palace is at the epi­cen­tre of the media ten­ta­cle. “I am stat­ing this so that it may be inscribed in His­to­ry. When the State of Law exists once more, a pros­e­cu­tor will doc­u­ment all this and bring it to every­one’s atten­tion. Among them, some will repent.”

The tri­al will continue…


Speaking of theater… the real kind

A few days lat­er, on Jan­u­ary 10, a play was staged in his hon­or, inspired by Demir­taş’ book And the wheel will”, (Devran in Turk­ish). The play was pre­sent­ed for the first time as a read­ing by actors Jülide Kur­al and Ömer Şahin at the Ken­ter The­ater in Istanbul.

And the Wheel will turn” is a col­lec­tion of nine short sto­ries writ­ten by Demir­taş and pub­lished in France under the title “Et tourn­era la roue” by Edi­tions Emmanuelle Col­las. Fic­tion­al sto­ries each hav­ing a dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tor, the col­lec­tion deals with such themes as jus­tice, crime and Kur­dish oppres­sion – with the col­lec­tion cen­ter­ing around a young man who lost friends dur­ing the cur­few the gov­ern­ment imposed on Cizre in 2015.

Sela­hat­tin Demir­taş’ com­pan­ion, Başak attend­ed the read­ing. Among fig­ures in the audi­ence: Selvi Kılıç­daroğlu, com­pan­ion of CHIP’s Pres­i­dent, and Dilek İmamoğlu, the com­pan­ion of Istan­bul’s may­or. Canan Kaf­tancıoğlu, Pres­i­dent of Istan­bul’s CHP was also present. Among oth­ers, HDP deputies Hüda Kaya, Fil­iz Ker­este­cioğlu (CHP Istan­bul), for­mer HDP deputy Sır­rı Süreyya Önder, and for­mer CHP deputy Barış Yarkadaş. The may­or of the Prince’s Islands Erdem Gül and actor Kadir İnanır were also in the hall. Kedis­tan would love all of them to increase their sup­port further…

As for the Min­is­ter of the Inte­ri­or Süley­man Soy­lu, he was furi­ous and could not keep him­self from com­ment­ing on the ini­tia­tive and on the audi­ence. Recall­ing the events in Kobanê 1, in his own way. As an epi­logue, he cried: “They burned down and destroyed every­thing. They mas­sa­cred 39 peo­ple. The PKK was the one who ordered this. This order was brought to Turkey by Sela­hat­tin Demir­taş who was then Co-Pres­i­dent of the HDP, and the mem­bers of their gov­ern­ing board. Sela­hat­tin Demir­taş writes a play. And some peo­ple stand before it and applaud. Your work was unfin­ished, Mis­ter Kadir]. You missed an oppor­tu­ni­ty, all of you who went to that the­ater. You should have hung on the wall of this the­ater the pho­to of Yasin Börü who fell a mar­tyr. You should have hung up the pho­tos of the 39 peo­ple who were mas­sa­cred. You can­not cleanse the blood from your hands with a the­ater play! You can­not deceive this Nation. You will not man­age to divide this coun­try. You will not be able to trav­el abroad, and you will not man­age to destroy the seren­i­ty of Turkey with per­sua­sions whis­pered in the ear. Turkey is no longer the old Turkey.”

Thus, the the­ater of injus­tice con­tin­ues play­ing its favorite act and its deco­rum per­sists with, on occa­sion, a cur­tain call.


(1) The events in Kobanê: When ISIS occupied Kobanê, Selahattin Demirtaş, then Copresident of the HDP, requested the opening of a humanitarian corridor on September 27 via the Turkish borders and a possibility of transferring weapons in other Kurdish cantons toward Kobanê, as reinforcement for the YPG facing ISIS. The request was reiterated also by Salih Muslim, leader of the PYD. Despite urgent calls and talks, the government did not authorize the corridor. Demonstrations were held in protest beginning on October 6, despite a declared curfew. The HDP then also published an appeal to the populations already experiencing difficulties while fleeing from ISIS. Police and military interventions by Turkish forces followed, with reinforcement by nationalist civilians, sympathizers of HÜDA-PAR and the grey wolves. Protests extended to the entire country. According to the Association for Human Rights (IHD) between the 7 th and the 12th of October, these events caused the death of 46 people, 682 were wounded and 323 were arrested. In 2015, Ankara Prosecutor’s Bureau for Crimes against the Constitutional Order launched a trial against the HDP’s board of governors on the charge of calling for protests.

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