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Required sen­tence of incom­press­ible per­pe­tu­ity, fol­lowed by acquit­tal. Fol­lowed by re-open­ing of tri­al, judge­ment on this Feb­ru­ary 10th, new acquit­tal for lack of evi­dence pro­vid­ed by the prosecution…

Aslı Erdoğan is thus acquit­ted of the accu­sa­tion of “pro­ga­pan­da for a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion” dur­ing the sec­ond hear­ing held on Feb­ru­ary 10th 2022 at Tri­bunal N°23 in Istanbul.

Brief rewind:

In 2016 fol­low­ing the deci­sion on its pro­hi­bi­tion pro­nounced by decree, spe­cial oper­a­tion forces of the police raid­ed the build­ing of Özgür Gün­dem in Istan­bul and arrest­ed 24 jour­nal­ists, includ­ing staff of IMC TV and DIHA.

Legal pro­ceed­ings were launched against the lead­ers, authors and staff of the news­pa­per for “pro­pa­gan­da for a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion” and “belong­ing to the orga­ni­za­tion”. Dur­ing the tri­al known as “The main Özgür Gün­dem Case”, the fol­low­ing were brought forth for judg­ment: Necmiye Alpay, Aslı Erdoğan, Ragıp Zarakolu, Fil­iz Koçali, Eren Keskin, Zana Kaya, Kemal Sancılı, İnan Kızılka­ya and Bilge Oykut.

On Feb­ru­ary 14 2020, Aslı Erdoğan, Necmiye Alpay and Bilge Aykut were acquit­ted and the files for Fil­iz Koçali and Ragıp Zarakolu who had not yet pre­sent­ed their depo­si­tions and against whom arrests were ordered, were split off from this trial.

One year lat­er, on Feb­ru­ary 15 2021, Eren Keskin, Inana Kizilka­ya and Kemal San­cil were sen­tend­ed to 6 years and 3 months impris­on­ment for “belong­ing” and Zana Kaya received a 2 year and 1 month sentence.

On Feb­ru­ary 14, 2020, on hear­ing of the ver­dict announc­ing her acquit­tal, Aslı had told us: “I am glad to hear it, but I don’t trust them. They could start again at any time, as they have done for so many others.”

How right was Aslı’s lawyer, when he in turn declared:  “Tri­als that are opened and re-opened become full-time sen­tences in them­selves.” A year and a half lat­er, in Novem­ber 2021, Aslı Erdoğan informed us of the re-open­ing of the tri­al against her in Turkey, or rather of an nth hic­cup of Turk­ish injus­tice against her.

In sum­ma­ry, accord­ing to the new accu­sa­tion, Aslı Erdoğan’s arti­cles sub­mit­ted as evi­dence at the tri­al were “also” pub­lished on the Özgür Gün­dem web­site, and as the writer’s acquit­tal had been pro­nounced with­out tak­ing these dig­i­tal ver­sions into account, it was unjus­ti­fied as per­tained to them. Con­se­quent­ly, the acquit­tal was annulled and the tri­al re-opened…

With the date and place deter­mined, the first hear­ing was sched­uled for Decem­ber 16 2021 before Penal Tri­bunal n° 23 in Istanbul.

And as Aslı would not like any­one hear­ing of such an absur­di­ty to imag­ine her guilty of a per­se­cu­tion mania, it seems wise to point out that this judi­cia­ry harass­ment does indeed par­tic­i­pate of a per­se­cu­tion mania, a real one, but by the polit­i­cal regime in Turkey which keeps on launch­ing and re-open­ing tri­als against some while oth­ers, whose tri­als have not even begun, are kept “pro­vi­sion­al­ly incar­cer­at­ed ad vitam aeter­nam” for months or years. The case of Osman Kavala is a typ­i­cal exam­ple of this lat­ter scenario.

Yes, when one lives under the rule of law, it is hard to imag­inethat jus­tice can be sub­ject­ed to orders to this extent, that it can hound  peo­ple relent­less­ly, even in “cas­es” that were already judged, find­ing pro­tract­ed rea­sons to re-open them, using improb­a­ble penal law argu­ments as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion. And thus leav­ing these cas­es sus­pend­ed like Damo­cles’ sword above the heads of the per­se­cut­ed, bran­dish­ing demands for the appli­ca­tion of the extreme­ly severe penal­ty of incom­press­ible per­pe­tu­ity, sub­sti­tut­ed for the death sen­tence that was abol­ished in 2002 in Turkey.

Aslı lives in exile in Berlin. Her sit­u­a­tion remains pre­car­i­ous. She, to whom were award­ed numer­ous prizes after she was lib­er­at­ed from Turk­ish gaols, whose books have been trans­lat­ed and sold by the tens of thou­sands, that France named a “Cheva­lier des Arts et des Let­tres”,  was once again con­sid­ered a “dan­ger­ous ter­ror­ist” and is still des­ig­nat­ed as such because she has left her home­land which was per­se­cut­ing her.

We all recall that when she was in prison, a strong cam­paign of sol­i­dar­i­ty devel­oped inter­na­tion­al­ly for “her lib­er­a­tion and the drop­ping of all the absurd charges brought against her and oth­ers with whom she was in sol­i­dar­i­ty” We had not spared our efforts then, until she was liberated.

But we have to won­der if such sup­port, as was also the case around Zehra Doğan, would still be pos­si­ble today, giv­en the evo­lu­tion of Euro­pean “pub­lic opin­ions” into iden­ti­tar­i­an with­draw­al, as attest­ed by the focal point of griev­ances against migrants and the draw­ing away from even sim­ply human reflex­es on these ques­tions. In that regard at least, the ter­ror­ism of ISIS has gained ground since inhu­man­i­ty tri­umphs behind the demand for the clos­ing of bor­ders, secu­ri­ty, ques­tions of iden­ti­ty and of nation­al­ism. All the pseu­do val­ues that had led to Aslı Erdoğan’s impris­on­ment  which served as an alarm for the rise of this cli­mate in 2016. This is now a done deal, if one is to judge by the ongo­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­toral cam­paign in France.

In brief, Aslı Erdoğan did not go to Istan­bul for the new hear­ing which took place on the sched­uled date of Decem­ber 16 2021. The hear­ing was cut short since the tri­bunal request­ed to see the dig­i­tal arti­cles pub­lished on a web­site shut down and sup­pressed by decree, the very ones the pros­e­cu­tor want­ed re-exam­ined. Under the cir­cum­stances, this was real­ly the very min­i­mum of requirements.

But Özgür Gün­dem, a tra­di­tion­al­ly Kur­dish news­pa­per, remains a for­bid­den media, thus shut down by decree in 2016, its jour­nal­ists are impris­oned or in exile…When the State shuts down a media and its online web­site, where does one find, five years lat­ers, the dig­i­tal doc­u­ments? There are recours­es in this mat­ter, but no one seems to have thought of them or to know about them.

Now, on Feb­ru­ary 10th 2022, at this sec­ond hear­ing, still in the absence of the dig­i­tal doc­u­ments sup­posed to sup­port the accu­sa­tion, the tri­bunal thus pro­nounced yet again, the acquit­tal of Aslı Erdoğan.

On the the next.

We talked about it on the phone yes­ter­day afternoon.

Usu­al­ly, our con­ver­sa­tions with Asli deal more with per­son­al exchanges, some­times of an inti­mate nature, con­cern­ing her writ­ing which we miss, her ques­tions con­cern­ing life and exile… Two acquit­tals and still the threat remains sus­pend­ed over her, with the con­stant risk of the nam­ing of anoth­er pros­e­cu­tor who will dig through the garbage in order to find a fal­la­cious argu­ment allow­ing for the re-open­ing of a “ter­ror­ism” file; such a sit­u­a­tion does not allow for a light-heart­ed cel­e­bra­tion of this deci­sion of “jus­tice”. What about Asli’s secu­ri­ty should she set foot in Turkey again? And even in Berlin from which the grey wolves are not absent. Such are the pre­oc­cu­pa­tions she con­fid­ed, as we could well understand.

Writ­ing in your own lan­guage when the State keeps a threat sus­pend­ed over your head, even in exile, requires both time and for­ti­tude. For her, the pan­dem­ic and health prob­lems have accom­pa­nied all these uncertainties.

We men­tioned it above, the iden­ti­tar­i­an with­draw­al encour­aged with­in Euro­pean States is a harsh expe­ri­ence for exiles also. Although Ger­many is not the worst in this regard, the pres­ence of a large Turk­ish nation­al­ist com­mu­ni­ty serves as a relay sta­tion for threats against “oppo­nents” or those con­sid­ered as such.

Aslı Erdoğan could thus not be brim­ming with joy in learn­ing of a ver­dict that is only jus­tice with­in an injus­tice. What com­forts her is the knowl­edge that she is always sup­port­ed by a read­er­ship in so many lan­guages and that per­haps, at last, every­one will under­stand that her wor­ries are not what mat­ter, but rather a Kafkaesque real­i­ty at work in Turkey, one from which she suf­fers col­lat­er­al dam­ages, along with a con­di­tion of exile one can­not ever wish on anyone.

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Translation from French by Renée Lucie Bourges
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REDACTION | Journaliste 
Chat de gout­tière sans fron­tières. Jour­nal­isme à l’U­ni­ver­sité de Mar­mara. Archi­tec­ture à l’U­ni­ver­sité de Mimar Sinan, Istanbul.