Mass trial of Kurds viewed as touchstone of Turkish democracy

Diyarbakir, Turkey’s Kurdistan: Observers at a mass trial of dozens of Kurdish activists and politicians in Turkey see the trial as “a political process” and not a “judicial” one, saying that it will be a major benchmark of democracy in the country.

 

Peter Hulqviston, a Swedish lawmaker who was present at the trial, told Rudaw “the European Union (EU) is watching the trial and will prepare a report next month on the state of democracy and its development in Turkey.”

 

“The outcome of the trial in Diyarbakir will be treated very seriously in that report. So, I hope Turkey will very well think about the matter.”

 

Turkish prosecutors have prepared a 7,500-page indictment against 151 Kurdish political and cultural figures in Turkey for their alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

 

The PKK has been engaged for nearly three decades in a bloody struggle against Turkish state for Kurdish rights resulting in around 40,000 casualties, most of them Kurdish civilians.

 

Nearly 300 lawyers will defend the accused in the court in what is seen as the largest trial in the history of Turkey. Tens of Kurdish and international observers are in Turkey’s largest Kurdish city, Diyarbakir, to monitor the trial. Sweden, Italy and France have sent special teams to observe the process.

 

Many of the Kurdish defendants have been in Turkish prisons, while there are still yet to be jailed for impropriate health conditions.

 

Despite the defendants’ demand to speak in Kurdish at the trial, the court did not allow them to do so. The microphones were turned off when the defendants spoke Kurdish.

 

“Preventing the defendants from speaking in their mother tongue is illegal according to international standards because this means preventing the defendants from defending themselves. It was the court’s duty to bring in interpreters and not depriving them of the right to speak Kurdish,” said Avin Cetin, a Kurdish jurist and politician from Sweden.

 

Meanwhile, Hulqviston also criticized the judge for not allowing the defendants to use Kurdish on the floor of the court.

 

“In a country that wants to become a member of the EU, the defendants should have been given the right to defend themselves in their mother tongue, but unfortunately the judge did not accept this,” he said.

 

Hulqviston who is one of the top figures in the Swedish Social Democratic Party said the defendants had been mostly indicted based on police documents gathered as a result of wiretapping their phone conversations.

 

“This is a practice in conflict with international laws. I did not expect this from a country like Turkey,” he added.

 

On her part, Aysel Tugluk, a prominent Kurdish politician in Turkey said most of the observers regard the “allegations as baseless and say the whole process is politicized and in conflict with laws.”

 

She accused the Turkish government of “intolerance toward the Kurds’ democratic struggle”, saying the trial had been planned for in advance.

 

“This is a historic trial for Turkey because the whole world is watching and so it will reflect on Turkey’s reputation at the international level,” Tugluk said.

 

Abdullah Demirbas, one of the defendants in the case who has been allowed to stay out of prison because of his health conditions, said the trial is aimed at “purging the Kurds and teaching them a lesson.”

 

“This means the Republic of Turkey still considers Kurdish language and Kurds’ human rights forbidden,” said Demirbas.

 

“This is like telling Kurds, the road to politics is blocked and your only way choice is arms and mountains. But the Kurds still insist on exercising politics and will achieve our rights.”

 

Cetin, the Swedish diplomat, believes that the defendants will stay in prison until after parliamentary elections in 2011, because the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by Prime Minister Erdogan wants to “weaken the Kurds and deprive the Kurdish front of its progressive and seasoned politicians.”

 

Mediya Deniz, Fatima Avci

 

Rudaw

October 26, 2010

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