Türkçe Politikyol | Français | English

HDP’s for­mer Co-Pres­i­dent, Sela­hat­tin Demir­taş, incar­cer­at­ed for the past five years in Edirne’s Type F prison, wrote an open let­ter to Judge Orhan Gazi Ertekin.


I read your open let­ter in the top secu­ri­ty cell in Edirne prison where I have been held hostage for the past five years. In it, using my sit­u­a­tion, you dis­cuss the grav­i­ty of judi­cia­ry power.

It is rain­ing out­side while I write these lines dur­ing the late night hours. We can­not touch the rain, because the court­yard prom­e­nade is closed, but we can hear it. Some­times, we hear pound­ing on the doors, and slo­gans com­ing from oth­er cells. There is a protest again tonight. The sounds blend in with the rain. This tells you about the pleas­ant atmos­phere. By stretch­ing things a bit, we could even describe our cell as roman­tic! Notice I don’t write of the “cell” part above in order to drama­tise the issue, or for pur­pos­es of agitation.

We have con­tra­band tea. We buy it at the can­teen. It is labelled “import­ed tea”.  Even if it ceas­es being con­tra­band tea once excise duties are paid, we don’t stop talk­ing about the tea as con­tra­band, I sup­pose we love it more when the tea is con­tra­band. Plus, since the gov­ern­ment is the one pock­et­ing the pay­ment, and not the tea itself, it still remains con­tra­band. This being the case, the thief is on the out­side, a fugi­tive and a hostage are in the cell. It’s most unfair, Your Hon­our.  But it’s tasty. The tea, that is.

At the end of your let­ter, you write: “…we should lend a clos­er ear to the voice of the accused.”  Your Hon­our, may I real­ly call you “Your Hon­our”? Because I would so like to do so.

I was “judged” in over forty cas­es dur­ing the past five years and, unfor­tu­nate­ly, no judge, or almost none, said to me “I wish to lend an ear to the voice of the accused.” And I was unable to call any of them “Your Hon­our” in total peace of mind. Now that I’ve found a judge with 26 years of expe­ri­ence ready to lis­ten to me, please, allow me to call you “Your Hon­our”. And may my title here not be that of “sus­pect” but of “wit­ness”. I am also a jurist, of 22 years stand­ing. Over that peri­od, I served as a lawyer, oh, let’s say in a hand­ful of cas­es and in the oth­ers, I was always assigned the role of the accused. Allow me to tes­ti­fy, at least for once. So I may tell you things I wit­nessed at tri­als, Your Hon­our. And I swear to tell the whole truth.

Your Hon­our, as you know, in pro­ce­dures, there exists a prin­ci­ple of con­tra­dic­to­ry judg­ment. In oth­er words, the accused has the right to appear in court, in per­son, and to present his defence in front of the judge. Most of the time, I could not make use of this right. Not that I was nev­er brought before the court, of course I was. But I could not present my defence in the judges’ face. Not because they don’t have a face,  but because I could not see it. Most of them kept their head bowed for­ward.  I still don’t know what those judges looked like, they did not lift their head to look at me a sin­gle time dur­ing the trials.

Luck­i­ly for them, the pan­dem­ic showed up and they all start­ed wear­ing masks. By bring­ing their masks right up to their eyes, they man­aged to hide their faces even bet­ter. Those who are ashamed of what they are doing, but do it any­where, I call “shame­ful cow­ards”. They were aware that what they were doing was not a judg­ment. They were aware that, in lynch­ing a politi­cian in this way, on orders from the supreme author­i­ty, they were con­tribut­ing to the con­struc­tion of an auto­crat­ic regime, and that they were accom­plices in the destruc­tion of a coun­try. But they did it any­way. They were afraid.

They were afraid to be dis­missed from their pro­fes­sion, thrown in prison, declared trai­tors. I could sense the ema­na­tions of their fear, and also of the hatred they felt for me. But no, not for my polit­i­cal views or for rea­sons of per­son­al ani­mos­i­ty. But had I also low­ered my head before the sov­er­eign pow­er,  they would not have been oblig­ed to feel so ashamed. I was thus the source of their shame, not the absolute pow­er. This is why their hatred was exer­cised against me and not against the Sovereign.

Jus­tice does not exist” said Alain. He con­tin­ued: “Jus­tice belongs to the order of things to be done pre­cise­ly because they do not exist”. André Comte-Spongille then won­dered, “but how can one cre­ate jus­tice with­out know­ing what it is, or should be?” 

As a wit­ness, I would like to say what fol­lows, Your Hon­our: Will the judge who hates me, who can­not lift his head out of shame, who opens the file with a hand shak­ing with fear, is he the one who will know what jus­tice is, or how it should be ren­dered?  Is this judge the one who will cre­ate jus­tice out of noth­ing? The root for the word jus­tice [adalet in Turk­ish] is “adl”. This means being equi­table, being just. Is this the judge who will  treat me with equi­table justice?

I can­not say if they blushed. I could not see it, Your Hon­our. Those judg­ing me were face­less. Would I not tell you, had I seen it? I am not lying. After all, I am under oath.

Of course, all the judges I met in hear­ing rooms did not hide their face. There were also some who had a face, and even more than one. And those, look­ing me straight in the eye, pre­tend­ed to be just. And when they pro­nounced the ver­dict, they showed their true face. It would be per­ti­nent to call them “expe­ri­enced hard­ened shame­less ones”. Their expe­ri­ence was that of impu­dence and not that of the expe­ri­ence in exer­cis­ing as a judge. And since I am an expe­ri­enced accused one and my lawyers, expe­ri­enced legal defendors, we were quick to under­stand their true faces. Still, I was sad for them, for the dam­age, the destruc­tions they cause because of the low con­di­tion in which they had fall­en. After all, I am both a politi­cian and a lawyer! But in this dark peri­od of his­to­ry, it is not easy for any­one to become “one of the war­riors of light”.

See­ing the sit­u­a­tion in which the judges find them­selves, I have often won­dered. How, as a soci­ety, did we reach this point for even the judges to be in this state?  There were many times when I lost my faith. At those times, I thought of what Pao­lo Coel­ho said about “war­riors of light”: “The war­riors of light can­not always be cer­tain of what they are doing in this world. They spend their lives think­ing it has no mean­ing. That is why they are war­riors of light. Because they make mis­takes. Because they put ques­tions to them­selves. Because they search for a rea­son and they will cer­tain­ly find it.” I told myself: “Per­haps I’ll be a war­rior of light, some day?” I thought about it.

Today is a vis­it­ing day, Your Hon­our. My wife and my daugh­ters came to see me. My eldest daugh­ter  will be tak­ing her uni­ver­si­ty exams next year. In fact, she had cho­sen the S option, in order to study at the Uni­ver­si­ty of the Bospho­rus. For some rea­son, in her final year, she changed her mind and passed into an L sec­tion. She now wants to study Law. The injus­tices must have wound­ed my daugh­ter. This is even why she took the deci­sion to aban­don Bospho­rus Uni­ver­si­ty even though a Law Fac­ul­ty has been opened there.

Indeed, on vis­i­tors’ day, look­ing into her sparkling eyes I could see through the dirty win­dow, I said: “So, are you hap­py, daugh­ter, a Law Fac­ul­ty has opened at the Uni­ver­si­ty of the Bospho­rus?” My youngest daugh­ter, Dil­da, inter­vened imme­di­ate­ly : “Do you know who opened that fac­ul­ty, papa?” And Delal nod­ded in approval. Obvi­ous­ly, they had talked about it among them­selves . “I sup­pose th rec­tor-tutor opened it”, I said. “Can we ever go study in a Law school opened by a tutor?” they argued.

I could have cried, Your Hon­our. In this nar­row visitor’s cab­in, I could have cried all the tears in my body. From joy, from hap­pi­ness. I thought “there, this is how jus­tice is cre­at­ed out of noth­ing.” I was filled with hope. It’s as if my daugh­ters had done with the Fac­ul­ty of Law a long time ago. Like mil­lions of their peers, they mas­ter all of it. They will not sub­mit their will to any tutor. Again I remem­ber the last sen­tence Paulo Coel­ho wrote for the war­riors of light: “Should they search for a rea­son, they will cer­tain­ly find it”. Once again I found my rea­son, Your Honour.

Out­side of judges with no faces and of two-faced ones, I also saw judges with mul­ti­ple faces. Sov­er­eign Pow­er has giv­en them an excess of faces, hun­dreds of them. This is why they are so pre­sump­tu­ous, liv­ing with impuni­ty. With­out scru­ples, dis­re­spect­ful, they do not fear to act open­ly as polit­i­cal activists. In look­ing a bit more care­ful­ly, one can glimpse their Par­ty badge under their robe. With fiery fer­vor, they rush to exe­cute the polit­i­cal orders they receive. They are impa­tient to fin­ish the job as quick­ly as pos­si­ble and to present the report to the Absolute Sov­er­eign. Should they man­age to reach the next pro­mo­tion, the next nom­i­na­tion peri­od, they will imme­di­ate­ly receive their reward. And if we were to call them “of a ripe age, all shame dis­solved”, they wouldn’t even expe­ri­ence any.

You know Themis. The blind­fold­ed god­dess of jus­tice. In her hand, she holds the bal­anced scales of jus­tice. In mythol­o­gy, Themis is the god­dess of cus­toms, of jus­tice and of moral tra­di­tions. She is also the com­pan­ion of Zeus and the moth­er off the Hours. The Hours being the daugh­ters of Themis and of Zeus, Euno­my, Diké and Irene. These three are the god­dess­es of spring and of plants, they radi­ate fer­til­i­ty. There is even a stat­ue of Themis on the table of the judges with many faces. But I sup­pose that, for them, she is the wife of Zeus, the god­dess of jus­tice and that their Zeus is the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of the Sovereign.

Who knows, per­haps they use the scales to weigh gold? For these judges, the equa­tion is sim­ple: sac­ri­fice Themis to Zeus and ben­e­fit from the abun­dance from the Hours thus orphaned.

So, is there any chance that jus­tice will be ren­dered by some­one with such an equa­tion, Your Honour?

İhs­an Eli­açık of the Ant­i­cap­i­tal­ist Mus­lims’ group, refers to jus­tice in these terms in his book “The State of Jus­tice”:

Jus­tice is an attempt at estab­lish­ing an equal­i­ty.  It is a process for the estab­lish­ment of an equi­ty for all of exis­tence, in gen­er­al terms and in more spe­cif­ic ones for the State, soci­ety and the world, it involves insur­ing that each thing is in its prop­er place and includ­ed in the equa­tion. In fact, there exists such a cos­mic equa­tion in the uni­verse. But the human species dis­or­gan­is­es it or attempts to do so. Jus­tice is the attempt a re-estab­lish­ing this bro­ken equa­tion. More­over, the equa­tion must be re-estab­lished each and every time. Thus, you are sup­posed to recal­cu­late with every process of re-establishment”.

I will not lie, Your Hon­our, read­ing Mas­ter İhs­an Eli­açık, being the accused seems eas­i­er than being the judge. It is dif­fi­cult being a judge, re-estab­lish­ing equi­ty, cre­at­ing jus­tice out of noth­ing in each inci­dent, each case, each tri­al, each accused. Tell me, Your Hon­our, those who weigh the gold on the scales of Themis are able to re-estab­lish the equation?

Per­haps I was a bit long­wind­ed. Now that I have found a judge who knows how to re-estab­lish equi­ty, I can­not keep myself from ask­ing ques­tions. And as I said ear­li­er, I am under oath.  With­out lying, I met some decent judges, even if they were very few. They had only one face and they always looked me straight in the eye. They had radi­ant faces and we under­stood one anoth­er. We sim­ply  silent­ly moved the true meet­ing to anoth­er spring. Themis, blind­fold­ed, was lis­ten­ing to us and her scales  did not even budge. I could say more, but there is no need to.

Such is the sit­u­a­tion, Your Hon­or. I would have a lot more to say. But I stop here, before my tea gets cold. Even con­tra­band tea has its hon­our, it must be drunk hot. When is accom­pa­nies the hostage, it does not last as long as it would in a fin­er glass.

With affec­tion and respect…

Sela­hat­tin Demirtaş

Translation from French by Renée Lucie Bourges
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