Defense in Kurdish marks first day of KCK trial
The 151 suspects, including 12 mayors and some politicians, are accused of wide-ranging crimes such as membership in an illegal armed group, spreading propaganda for an illegal group, threatening Turkey's territorial integrity and violating laws on public demonstrations, according to a 7,500-page indictment. A total of 103 of the suspects are under arrest; however, some of them, including Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir, were not required to remain in police custody although they participated in the first hearing.
The primary suspect in the case is Sabri Ok, the PKK’s European representative. Ok is accused of leading the KCK and is a person with extensive connections. Security experts say he is responsible for the close ties between the KCK and the Ergenekon terrorist organization, a clandestine gang that had planned to overthrow the government. Amidst internal conflict in Ergenekon, it has maintained direct communication with the KCK regarding attacks -- and this is mentioned in the case indictments for both the Ergenekon and KCK cases.
Jailed leader of the PKK Abdullah Öcalan is the KCK’s honorary leader, while PKK member Zübeyir Aydar heads the group’s legislative arm and Öcalan’s right-hand man Murat Karayılan leads the executive branch. Some of the group’s cabinet members within the executive arm who are in Kandil are also top PKK leaders.
Since April 2009, security forces have arrested more than 1,500 people, including pro-Kurdish politicians, claiming that they are members of the KCK. The government claims the KCK suppresses the freedoms and rights of Kurds by using methods that range from intimidation to violence. However, pro-Kurdish circles argue that there are political motives behind the KCK’s activities and that they are intended to pressure pro-Kurdish politicians.
The KCK was established in 2005 upon the orders of Öcalan. It has since been learned that the organization’s goal was to bring the Kurds of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq together as part of “greater Kurdistan.” Despite the group’s claim in recent years that they have no intentions of establishing an independent Kurdish state, it has become clear that Peace and Democracy (BDP) members who are part of the KCK would indeed like to create such a state. Information in the indictment suggests that the KCK is not the civil society arm of the PKK, but rather an umbrella political organization that includes the PKK.
Unlike the PKK, which committed acts of terrorism first in rural areas and then in cities, the KCK has a well-organized structure that oversees activities in several areas. The KCK has developed its own legislature and executive and judiciary arms in which the PKK’s role is to conduct armed maneuvers.
All the deputies of the pro-Kurdish BDP came to Diyarbakır to follow the trial. BDP Chairman Selahattin Demirtaş said only after 18 months in prison have their friends been brought to trial. Demirtaş criticized the length of their arrest and said that they are hoping that their friends will be released.
BDP Van deputy Özdal Üçer claimed that the trial is a political one and that if it is a trial in which justice is sought, then their friends will be set free. “The long period of arrest has already delivered a form of punishment,” he said. The former chairman of the now-defunct Democratic Society Party (DTP) Ahmet Türk, who was banned from participating in politics by the Constitutional Court, said the trial is intended to suppress pro-Kurdish politicians.
In the courtroom -- which is too small to hold the many observers, including foreign observers, and the almost 300 lawyers working on the case -- the suspects spoke in Kurdish and asked the court if they could deliver their testimonies in Kurdish. But sources close to the suspects underlined that even if the court will not allow them to speak in Kurdish, the suspects will do so anyway.
During the first hearing, before the suspects were officially identified, the court told the suspects that they could say “I am here” when their names were read. The suspects said, “Ez li virim, ez amademe,” which means “I am here and ready” in Kurdish.
The chairman of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, Mehmet Emin Aktar, said, while speaking in the name of the defendants’ lawyers, that the trial is a historic one and added that the suspects will defend themselves in accordance with their political identities. He also added that in order to save time there is no need to read the indictment, which is 7,500 pages, in court.
On behalf of the suspects, former deputy Hatip Dicle delivered a short statement and said the suspects are representing the people. He added that in democratic countries representatives of the people are not arrested. “At the center of this trial stands the Kurdish question. In a period during which the laying down of arms is under discussion and the search for a democratic solution to the problem has accelerated, this trial should never have existed,” he said in court.
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. The suspects, apart from some politicians, include PKK operatives, 28 managers of the now-defunct DTP, 12 mayors, including Diyarbakır Mayor Baydemir, two provincial council heads and two municipal council members. The suspects’ demand for their release was rejected by the court. The trial is expected to continue today.