Guantánamo Bay Istanbul – At the camp of punishment

woensdag 4 juli 2012 16:42

Fragments of an observer’s diary of the “KCK- trial” in Silivri

[As I explained in a first contribution as an observer, member of an international delegation, The KCK trial in Silivri is a Kafkaesque event in a high security military camp and prison in the middle of nowhere.]

To recapitulate I will transcribe my notes of the first day of the trial. The defence speech of the first lawyer, a women, Meral Dani? Be?ta?, was quite impressive and she more or less encapsulated the positions of the defence. I quote her from the impressions translated to me in German by a novelist published by Ragip Zarakolu. She opened with insisting on translation: “The law says people can speak their own language. This is a political trial, people are brought to justice because they are Kurdish, so they should be able to speak their Kurdish”.

This request that the defendants would be allowed to speak their language and have a translator, was the refrain of the defence repeated by several lawyers in several ways. She went on: “What is happening here, the essence of this trial is this: a fully normal political activity that is presented as illegal.” This last phrase is crucial (though not sufficient as we later learned) to understand this trial and the so called KCK operations. The BDP is a legal party, the entire trick is that the court does as if they are members of the KCK, which has been outlawed. “This sort of trial is not legitimate and not in accordance with the law. 10.000 people have been arrested. Thousands have been accused, professors, journalists, intellectuals….

The military campaign against the Kurdish people and the judicial campaign are in contradiction with each other” Well, not so sure about that, in fact they are two faces of the same coin, but it is clear what she means (if my translator rendered her words correctly, what I presume, for his German was good): that launching military repression against people is not a way to enforce the law. The military logic turns law into state of emergency which is a suspension of the law. That is precisely the function of the antiterrorism laws. “In such a situation, anyone, politically active or not, can be accused.”

Further down she pointed out that since the truce declared by the PKK the state launched a military campaign. She was sharply attacking the Turkish state: “The state politics manipulates the public. On the one hand it has its mouth full of democracy, on the other there is a wave of arrests.” They claim that BDP is a secret organization but that is wrong: everything is out there in the open. The BDP stands for peace and democracy and strives for a multiethnic Turkey where all people can peacefully live together. The accusation, she went on to say, presumes that the BDP has secret political goals, and that is is a cover organization for KCK, that in its turn is a cover organisation for PKK. The accusation claims that the hidden political goal is an independent Kurdistan.

Another important point she made was that this trial is not about the accused as persons, but about the BDP as party, because it is supposed to be separatist. The prosecutor should have turned to the constitutional court, if he wants to outlaw the BDP as an undemocratic party. With the defendants as such all this has nothing to do, she claimed. Then she started to talk about the so called ‘academia’ of the party, and about intellectuals like Ragip Zarakolu and Bursra Ersanli, who spoke for these educational activities of the party. She said that she was herself a member of the party (in fact she is vice president of the BDP) and so she could one day be in prison too. She ended by formulating the five requests, I reported in part one. The other lawyers who spoke, were one by one hammering on these points. And thus ended the first day.

The second day of the ‘KCK- trial’ was weird. The morning there was a confused stalemate (after the defence walk out of yesterday): nothing happened except that one lawyer who tried to enter without the security badge got hit. Upon this the lawyers assembled and refused to have badges, this request was finally granted.

Hanging around with the Kurdish people was a hearth warming experience: I was offered drinks and food in a tent at the outskirts of the parking lot, it was their logistic center, the place where they eat and rest. Many are also sleeping there, like Dilan and Sheida, who translated for me, two sisters in their early twenties who’s father is among the accused. It gives an idea of the extremity all this: these people have to survive here for 14 days in barren circumstances in the heat. Communication in the tent was difficult but the general appreciation tangible. In the afternoon I tried several times to get in touch with the television, the people with their camera’s. But to no avail. One Kurdish guy, who spoke rather well English and German said to me: ‘If I would translate for you in front of the camera, I would be in jail tomorrow’.

Later I got in the court with my press card, for the public was not allowed in a reprisal for their shouting on the first day. The reading of the accusation was interrupted by both the lawyers and some of the accused, after which the proceedings were adjourned. The lawyers made a statement to the press. Fabio Marcelli, a member of our delegation, also gave a short but powerful statement in front of a few camera’s, asking Turkey to respect the rights of the defence and to abide to due process, to international and humanitarian law.

The Wednesday there were no proceedings to respect weekly family visits; it might be the one humane thing about this first week of the trial. We used this free day to go to Istanbul. we did an interview with the new website Bianet and I was later in the afternoon guest in an hour long live television program on IMC television, so it was not an idle day. Thursday, the fourth day of the trial,  was mostly spent with the reading of the accusation. Unfortunately I have no time to transcribe my notes, but the message was clear, all the accused are members of the KCK and ‘it has been determined’ (that is the phrase they used again and again) that it is a terrorist organization.    

Lieven De Cauter

Lieven De Cauter is a philosopher, art historian, writer and activist. Catholic University of Leuven, RITS Mediaschool, Brussels, Berlage Institute, Rotterdam, president of the BRussells Tribunal, co-founder of the World Tribunal on Irak (WTI), co-founder of the Platform for Free Speech, corresponding member of the slow science movement. Author of a. o. ‘The Capsular civilization. On the city in the Age of fear’ (2004);  Art and Activism in the Age of  Globalization (2011); and ‘Entropic Empire. On the City of Man in the Age of Disaster (2012).

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