Kurdistan Communities Union trial starts amid protests
The Diyarbakır 6th High Criminal Court will not hear any other cases until Nov. 12. Altogether around 1,500 individuals were arrested during the KCK operations launched last year.
The trial names 151 suspects, including 12 mayors, in an indictment spanning over 7,500 pages. Foreign observers and more than 300 lawyers will monitor the trial proceedings. The security forces have since April 2009 arrested more than 1,500 people, including pro-Kurdish politicians, claiming they are members of the KCK. The government claims the KCK suppresses the freedoms and rights of Kurds using methods ranging from intimidation to violence. Pro-Kurdish circles argue, however, that political motives are behind the KCK operations and that they aim to create pressure over pro-Kurdish politics.
The lawyers of the suspects are expected to ask for the release of their clients while pointing to the fact that the long periods of arrest have already turned into a type of punishment. The 7,578-page indictment was accepted by the court on June 18. Prosecutors are demanding sentences varying from 15 years to life in prison for 104 of the 151 suspects.
During the KCK operations last year, when some mayors, including Batman Mayor Nejdet Atalay, were arrested, the suspects were lined up while handcuffed and their pictures published in the media. Pro-Kurdish circles reacted to these pictures and labeled them an insult to Kurds.
The suspects include the PKK’s European representative, Sabri Ok, who is named as the primary suspect in the indictment, 28 managers of the now-defunct Democratic Society Party (DTP), 12 mayors, including Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir, two provincial council heads and two municipal council members. Human Rights Association (İHD) Diyarbakır branch President Muharrem Erbey is also among the suspects.
During the operation, the security forces arrested Erbey and two other members of the İHD in Diyarbakır in addition to seizing the association’s archive there. İHD Diyarbakır branch secretary Raci Bilici claimed in a press release that the human rights defenders and politicians had been arrested because they defend democracy and human rights.
More than 60 civil society organizations in Diyarbakır called for the release of the elected politicians, members of professional unions and representatives of civil society organizations.
“The court refused to consider our petitions against the arrests and the arrest periods turned into a punishment. Although the indictment only included telephone conversations and testimony by secret witnesses, our petitions seeking their release have been rejected many times,” he said.
In a joint statement released over the weekend, more than 60 civil society organizations in Diyarbakır, including the Diyarbakır Bar Association, the Diyarbakır Trade and Industry Chamber and various unions, called for the release of the elected politicians, members of professional unions and representatives of civil society organizations. “Justice has been delayed and harms the conscience of the public. Such a situation does not serve to create an atmosphere in which peace can develop,” the statement underlined.
The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), whose members number most of the suspects, underlined that the KCK trial will be a test for efforts to solve the country’s Kurdish question. BDP parliamentary group deputy chairman Bengi Yıldız said Oct. 18 will be the first step to silence the guns. “If the road to doing politics on legal platforms is not blocked, the democratic process will have the chance to continue,” Yıldız said.
Demonstrations are expected during the week in various provinces, including İstanbul, İzmir and Diyarbakır. The BDP’s Diyarbakır branch will set up a tent near the courtroom.
The small size of the Diyarbakır courtroom will pose a big problem for the trial as well. Two courtrooms are currently being merged for the KCK hearing, but may still prove to be too small as many people are expected to attend the hearing. On the date of the hearing, the suspects, their lawyers and relatives, members of the press, staff and many BDP members are expected to be present in the courtroom. All of the BDP’s deputies will be in attendance.
The suspects are expected to stand trial in rotation. Because of this, the trial may run for several days. The Diyarbakır 6th High Criminal Court will not hear any other cases until Nov. 12. Altogether around 1,500 individuals were arrested during the KCK operations launched last year. Some still await trial.