World Bulletin / News Desk
The first hearing in the trial of 205 suspects facing charges of membership in or aiding and abetting the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) -- an umbrella organization encompassing the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and related organizations -- began on Monday but was halted when several suspects responded in the Kurdish language during an ID check in court.
The hearing in the KCK case started at 10 a.m. on Monday with the attendance of 193 suspects, 132 of whom have been jailed pending trial. The suspects include publisher Ragıp Zarakolu and Professor Büşra Ersanlı, and all face lengthy prison terms on charges of leading and aiding and abetting a terrorist organization.
The suspects were first asked to provide personal details for identification purposes. After suspects Kudbettin Yazbaşı and Mümtaz Aydeniz answered judge Ali Alçık's questions in Kurdish, the judge said the suspects could not be identified as they “have spoken in a language that is not Turkish.” Lawyers for the suspects insisted that their clients wanted to defend themselves in Kurdish and that therefore a translator should be assigned by the court.
The hearing ended when the ID check process was halted. After the judges reviewed the lawyers’ demands amongst themselves, the presiding judge announced that the requests had been denied.
Meral Danış Beştaş, lawyer for several suspects, argued lack of jurisdiction of the court, stating that the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and its political activities are the real target of the trial.
The İstanbul 15th High Criminal Court is hearing proceedings, involving more than 200 suspects, 140 of them jailed pending trial. The hearing began on Monday, while security forces implemented increased security measures around the Silivri Courthouse.
BDP deputies Gülten Kışanak, Ayla Akat Ata, Ertuğrul Kürkçü, Sebahat Tuncel, Sırrı Sürreyya Önder, Pervin Buldan and Levent Tüzel, as well as Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Binnaz Toprak, attended the hearing to follow the trial.
In front of the court, Kışanak addressed members of the press, saying a new bill abolishing specially authorized courts through a review of Articles 250, 251 and 252 of the Turkish Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK) did not introduce many changes and vehemently criticized the government.
Presiding judge Alçık announced that the hearing would begin following checks of the personal information for the purposes of identification of the 140 jailed suspects. Alçık read the name of Kudbettin Yazbaşı and asked him to stand up. Yazbaşı, speaking with the aid of a microphone, said the word “present” in Kurdish. The chief judge read Yazbaşı’s personal information aloud, including the names of his parents, and asked whether they were true and correct. Yazbaşı again responded in Kurdish.
At this, Alçık said, “It seems that a language other than Turkish was used and the microphone was taken away from the suspect.”
Lawyer Sinan Zincir said his client had spoken in his mother tongue. He demanded the court should continue to check personal information regardless of whether his client spoke in Kurdish.
Following Yazbaşı, the court went on to confirm the personal information of another jailed suspect, Mümtaz Aydeniz. Aydeniz also responded in Kurdish to questions from chief judge Alçık. The ID check was halted upon the suspect’s insistence on speaking Kurdish.
“The suspects speak in their mother tongue, Kurdish. You cannot treat a language that is spoken by 20 million people in this country as an unknown language. If you did that, you would become a part of this case and lose your neutral position,” lawyer Emin Aktar told the presiding judge.
In response to Aktar, presiding judge Alçık said: “I didn’t say it was an unknown language, I said the suspects spoke a language that is not Turkish. Don’t employ polemics. Suspect must speak Turkish so as to be understood.”
Beştaş claimed that the BDP and its political activities were the real target of the investigation and gave information about bylaws of the BDP. She said the BDP is not an illegal party and does not engage in secret activities; rather, it is a legal political party involved in democratic activities within the scope of the law.
She said most of the activities the subject of charges leveled against suspects could be considered the activities of a political party, and that therefore a new investigation should be launched by Yargıtay to establish whether the BDP is also being investigated. If so, she asked, the case must be dropped.
Meanwhile, an Ankara court accepted an indictment against 15 women who are members of various unions, including the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK), over charges of being member of or abetting the KCK.
The Ankara 11th High Criminal Court accepted the indictment, prepared by Specially Authorized Prosecutor Cemil Tuğtekin, on Monday.
According to the indictment, the suspects have taken part in unions as part of a plan designed by the PKK in 2005 in camps in northern Iraq’s Kandil Mountains.