Parliament will open confidential files regarding the independence courts -- tribunals that prosecuted thousands of people on charges of treason in the early years of the Republic of Turkey -- to public readership, sources have said.
The documents, which were stored as “state secrets,” were translated into modern Turkish as part of a two-year project. An eight-person team of experts worked on the documents, which consist of 5,178 pages and include logs on verdicts and court rulings. The Parliament Speaker’s Office is expected to disclose the documents publicly in the next few weeks.
Thousands were executed as a result of decisions made by the Independence Courts, but what really transpired during the tribunals remains a mystery. In 2010, the Parliament Speaker’s Office assigned a team of experts to open the classified documents, sort through them, study them and translate their contents into modern-day Turkish from the mostly Ottoman writing, and the project is now nearing completion. A separate team of experts is expected to examine the personal belongings of the victims, which were also kept by Parliament.
As part of the project, papers on final rulings, including summaries of indictments, opinions of judges, names of the suspects and the final verdicts, are being translated. Most of this work has in fact been completed, and sources say the team hopes to complete the translation of the remaining papers over the next few weeks.
Statistics regarding the court rulings will also be made available, sorting the number of people tried by these courts according to their hometown, profession, gender, age, the attributed crime and the judicial outcome. Both the translated files and graphics on the statistics will be uploaded online.
The Independence Courts were set up in 1920, during Turkey’s War of Independence, to prosecute those charged with treason but stayed functional until 1927. Over time, the courts turned into revolutionary courts, prosecuting individuals who were believed to be opposing the government and Turkey’s new regime. Many important religious figures, such as Şeyh Sait, Seyit Rıza and İskilipli Atıf Hoca, were hanged after being convicted by these courts. The total number of pages of documents regarding the Independence Courts at the parliamentary archive is 914,000.