Update and background information on the Pinar Selek case:
THE NIGHTMARE HAS ENTERED ITS 15TH YEAR
Approximately for the last fifteen years, a nightmare is imposed on Pinar Selek, her family and all of us who are waiting for justice. This case which has stopped being a legal mistake or a defect, and turned into a massacre of the law, has entered its 15th year.
The course of events when Pinar Selek was chosen as a target started during her research on the Kurdish Issue in 1997. Under the conditions of that period, her interviewing the parties of that conflict in order to understand and recount the conditions of the war and why peace couldn’t be made was not only brave but also dangerous. It was a time of the ‘memorandums’ which were later admitted as sham by the makers themselves, and when tanks strolled in the streets of the capital, Ankara, in order to ‘fine-tune’. The state was determined to solve the Kurdish Issue by war and by crushing it. Within this period, Pinar Selek was taken into custody by the Police Department on July 11th 1998, was heavily tortured and her research was confiscated because she refused to give the names of those she had interviewed. Official reports that later came out to be fake were produced against Pinar Selek. One of these said that Pinar fell on her arm, in an effort to cover up the fact that her left arm was dislocated during the strappado that was exerted on her. (Even while the request by the police for the extension of Pinar’s custody period being accepted, no official other than the police officers has seen Pinar). And in the other reports, it was portrayed as if the explosives and materials, which actually belonged to other people and which should have been destroyed by police before she was even taken into custody, had been found in the art atelier she had started for the street children where a lot of people frequented. However, it came out with the date, number and content of the crime scene investigation report, that the explosives which were claimed to be found in the atelier were really in the hands of the Police Department in order to be destroyed 22 hours before the atelier was searched and 13 hours before Pinar was taken into custody. It is also found out that the evidence had been tampered by changing the duct tapes (on which it is claimed that Pınar Selek’s fingerprints were found). The police made an imaginary accusation that Pinar had hidden a militant of a (terrorist) organization in the atelier for days, but, although it was in the police’s own reports that they had been keeping Pinar and the atelier under surveillance before they took her into custody, they could not find any member of a (terrorist) organization nor did they interrogate anyone that was related to the atelier (including the tenant). Pinar was arrested by the DGM (State Security Court) military judge as the ‘only person’.
In the conjuncture of the period around 1998, while many conspiracies and ‘memorandums’ kept coming up, Pinar Selek was chosen as the victim. Her example was used as a symbol in order to intimidate all intellectuals and researchers who would dare focus on this issue. Selek’s decision to not give up, but concentrate on working for peace, on the women’s movement and academic research caused an intensification of this conspiracy, carried out through threats, assaults and extension of the judicial process.
HOW HAS THE CASE DEVELOPED?
The first case was brought to court charging Pinar Selek with “membership of an illegal organization”. While she was at the Ümraniye Prison, Pinar Selek found out through television that she was being associated with the explosion of the Spice Bazaar, which had happened a month and a half ago. The conspiracy was rolling on, growing gradually in the process.
Yet Pinar Selek, who was prosecuted for a long time and whose location was known very well, was taken into custody by the police two days after the explosion at the Spice Bazaar on July 9th1998 while a large-scale investigation was being conducted about the explosion, was not asked a single question about the explosion. This situation revealed once again that Pinar Selek was face to face with a conspiracy that was trying to be landed upon her.
The Police Crime Scene Investigation reports and the Expert Reports of the Criminal Police Laboratory dated July 13th and 14th1998, which were prepared by the bomb experts of the Police right after the explosion at the Spice Bazaar said that there were no findings indicating a bomb. The Police Crime Scene Investigation Final Report, dated July 20th, 1998 also said “There are no findings with regards to a bomb.” The only direct basis for the accusation was the testimony Abdülmecit Öztürk gave to the police, in which he said “I placed the bomb in the Spice Bazaar together with Pinar Selek.” This second court case which had been brought up against Pinar Selek upon these charges was later merged with the first case.
In the hearing on December 22nd 1998, with regards to the case against Öztürk and Selek charging them with placing a bomb in the Spice Bazaar, Abdülmecit Öztürk and the other defendants declared that they had been severely tortured , and that, actually, they didn’t even know Pinar Selek. At the hearing on July 5th, 1999, the Chief Inspector, head of the Bomb Disposal Bureau of the Police, who made an on-site examination gave a statement as follows: “We have not found any trace of a bomb. A leakage of bottled gas may diffuse on the floor and cause such an explosion. If this were a bomb, it would open a pit of at least 50 cm where it exploded. However our on-site examination shows no such pit.”The report dated June 15th, 2000 by Resat Apak, Director of İstanbul University Analytical Chemistry Department stated that “The Public Prosecutor’s report is not scientific and is inclined to mislead the Court. Nitrocellulose can be found in various materials, it is not a proof that there is a bomb.”In the report of July 27th, 2000 by the Forensic Department of Cerrahpasa Faculty of Medicine also revealed that the Public Prosecutor’s report is not scientific and “None of the facts are in accordance with the wounding patterns through bomb explosion. In the meanwhile, on December 21st, 2000, the reports of three expert professors appointed by the court confirmed the fact that the explosion had been caused by a gas leak and not a bomb.
After 2.5 years, on December 22nd 2000, the Local Court released Pinar Selek. Upon this discharge, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Istanbul Police Department of the time sent a letter to the court, dated April 19th, 2001, saying that this release had greatly disturbed them. About three years after the explosion, these very same institutions also got a new report put into the file, which had no signature or date and said that “the explosion had been caused by a bomb,” even though they were not parties to the case and the Court had not made any such request. They thus demanded the Court to send the case over to the experts once again. Even though the Court did not accept the report as legal evidence, the case file was sent to the experts once again in accordance with the demands of these institutions. At this point, judicial independence had blatantly been intervened.
It was also revealed that the report dated July 4th, 2002, prepared by opinions from members of the gendarmerie who had no expertise whatsoever in determining the origins of an explosion (a report with a dissenting opinion) had been prepared through spoliation of evidence and that it was a copy of the report with no signature or date that the police had placed in the file. The expert report appointed by the court on July 10th, 2002 confirmed the gas leakage explosion, while the final report dated November 21th, 2002, prepared by the Middle East Technical University Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department via ‘visual processing technology’ which was added to the file, declared that the explosion seems in accordance with the report stating the gas leakage, that the “report of the gendarmerie” was against the laws of physics and also revealed that the explosion had took place in the oven.
On June 8th, 2006,Istanbul 12thHigh Criminal Court announced its first ruling of acquittal about Pinar Selek and Abdülmecit Öztürk, saying that, with regards to the Spice Bazaar explosion, “no certain and believable evidence that requires punishment could be found.” This decision was reversed by the 9th Penal Department of the Supreme Court on April 17th, 2007, on the basis that “no verdict had been given.”
After Pinar Selek was tried once again, on May 23th, 2008 Istanbul 12thHigh Criminal Court repeated its previous decision, acquitting Pinar Selek and Abdülmecit Öztürk with regards to charges about the Spice Bazaar explosion. Also, with regards to the charges of aiding and abetting the terrorist organization, it decided to “dismiss the case due to lapse of time.” In the verdict by the court, the accusations brought against Pinar saying that she was the member of a terrorist organization were also found not to be credible. Thus Pinar Selek was acquitted for the second time.
All these years, the one testimony taken from Abdülmecit Öztürk by the police under torture and without the assistance of a lawyer, and that he later disowned has remained the sole direct link between Pinar Selek and the accusation of bombing the Spice Bazaar. Also, since the prosecutor has never appealed against the acquittal of Öztürk, his acquittal has been confirmed. However, while the prosecutor who accused Pinar Selek based on the so-called confession of Öztürk did not appeal the acquittal of Öztürk, he appealed only the acquittal of Selek!Thus, another impossible thing has happened; while the record of testimony that was imposed upon Öztürk under torture which read “We did the act together” was not found valid or credible for himself, it was deemed valid and credible (!) for Pinar whom he said he was together with at the act.
The appeal of the acquittal of Selek by the Prosecution office is yet another indication that Selek was chosen as a target.
On March 10th, 2009, the 9th Penal Department of the Supreme Court asked for Selek to be sentenced to aggravated imprisonment for life, based only on the testimony at the police and the report of the gendarmerie which was found to be against the laws of physics, disregarding the scientific reports in the file, and it reversed the ruling of the Istanbul 12thHigh Criminal Court. The same department has declared that ‘the acquired rights of Öztürk are reserved’ whom the Prosecution has not appealed the acquittal of.
The Chief Prosecutor of the Supreme Court made an objection on the reversal of the acquittal by the 9th Penal Department of the Supreme Court to the Supreme Court General Assembly for Criminal Matters, asking for a confirmation of this acquittal, with the basis that “it could not be proved that the explosion was caused by a bomb”. On February 9th, 2010 the Supreme Court General Assembly for Criminal Matters (abbreviated as YCGK in Turkish) rejected the Chief Prosecutor’s objection with 17 votes against 6. Although the Chief Prosecutor of the Supreme Court clearly based its objection on the fact that “the research and the reports on the explosion could not prove the notion of a bomb”, the General Assembly saw no harm in making this evaluation: “There is no incompatibility between the Penal Department and the Chief Prosecution. The incompatibility and the reason of objection is as to who placed the bomb there”. Thus, it came out that at the General Assembly, the ruling was made without even examining the two-page petition of objection of the Chief Prosecution, let alone examining the file and the defenses. The file was sent back to the Istanbul 12thHigh Criminal Court in order to be decided upon one more time. On February 9th, 2011, the Istanbul 12thHigh Criminal Court resisted the reversal given to its acquittal by the Supreme Court General Assembly for Criminal Matters and gave Pinar Selek an acquittal for the third time. The public prosecutor of the Istanbul 12thHigh Criminal Court appealed against the acquittal at the Supreme Court Criminal General Assembly the very next day after the acquittal. With the appeal of the prosecutor, the case would once again be discussed at the Supreme Court General Assembly for Criminal Matters.
However, the Spice Bazaar case was heard in one single case file combined with other defendants tried regarding other allegations. The court had given a ruling on February 9th, 2011 on the Spice Bazaar explosion. But since the statements of some of the defendants of the cases in the file other than the Spice Bazaar were not taken, the proceeding on these other cases went on. In order for the acquittal given on the Spice Bazaar explosion to be sent to the Supreme Court General Assembly for Criminal Matters, the allegations about the other defendants which were not related to the Spice Bazaar but combined under the same file had to be finalized.
Nevertheless, the hearing which had to be about completing the procedural deficiencies of the other ancillary cases that were combined with the Spice Bazaar case witnessed a scandalous ruling. The Istanbul 12thHigh Criminal Court that came out with a new board of judges on November 22nd, 2012 revoked its ruling of acquittal about Pinar Selek dated February 9th, 2011, even though it was left with no authority to make a ruling on the case after the ruling of acquittal was given. Furthermore, this ruling was given by the new board that was formed with a temporary chief judge who acquainted himself for the first time with this quite bulky case file while the actual chief judge of the court who was the head of the board that insisted on the ruling of acquittal and the only judge that carried out this case for 14.5 years was on leave.
THE COURT HAS REVOKED ITS RULING OF ACQUITTAL WITH AN INTERIM RULING
The Istanbul 12thHigh Criminal Court, with a scandalous ruling unprecedented not only in the history of the Turkish law but in the world history of law, has revoked its own ruling of acquittal and gave a second ruling in a case that it had previously ruled on, despite having no such authority and in a way that is against due process and the law.
According to the Turkish Criminal Procedures Act (CMK), once the court gives its final ruling, by no means can it revoke that ruling nor can it give a second ruling on the issue. According to the CMK, acquittal is not an interim ruling, but a final judgment. It can only be appealed before the Supreme Court. A ruling that a court has decided on gets out of its jurisdiction and enters that of the Supreme Court. In the Pinar Selek case, the court, by withdrawing its ruling of acquittal, has substituted itself for the ‘authority of appellate’, replaced the Supreme Court and put its own ruling to appellate review. Moreover, this interim ruling has been given before the hearing started and before the lawyers were given the floor, it has been written on the monitor beforehand and it has been announced to the lawyers after the ruling was given, and this was called a “proceeding”. The court has not taken into consideration the lawyers’ objections to the proceeding that was carried out against due process and the law. On one hand, the prosecutor has given one more time an opinion on the case itself, which he had appealed, as if the final judgment on the file had not been given, and on the other hand, he has not withdrawn his petition for appeal.
In addition, when we look at the sessions of this case and the other cases that were heard that day, we see that the average period between one session and the next is about 2.5 to 3 months, but this time, the new board has determined the date of the next session, where the final ruling will be given, as only 21 days after the previous one (as December 13th, 2012) so that it would be a few days before the health report of the actual chief judge of the court expired.
THE LEGAL CHAOS AND CONFUSION CREATED DURING THE RECUSATION
Pinar’s lawyers have requested for recusal on the grounds that the judges who have revoked the acquittal by going beyond their authority have lost their impartiality. Again, there has been a practice against the provisions of the law and the judges for whom the request of recusal was made have examined the request and have decided to “refuse the request”. On top of that, a new procedure was invented. The judges who have refused the request have sent their own decision to the court with one higher number (13th High Criminal Court) without announcing to the lawyers and as if there is an application of objection filed by the lawyers outside their knowledge and on behalf of them, and the court has formed a ruling as if there was an actual objection. In other words, before the lawyers have made an objection, and when there was no petition of objection, the objection (!) that did not exist was refused. They tried to make it look like the procedure in this regard was completed.
When the session on December 13th, 2012 started, the result of the recusal request was not certain. However, as if the process was complete, the session was heard by the board made up of the judges that were recused thus going against the mandatory provisions of the law that reads: “The next session may not proceed with the recused judge before the ruling on the recusal is finalized”, despite the objections of the lawyers. The decision of the “refusal of the request for recusal” was announced to the lawyers at the session. When the lawyers stated that the procedure was carried out wrongly and wanted to exercise their right to object to this decision, the court had to postpone the session to January 24th, 2013.
The lawyers’ petition of objection was sent to the other court of jurisdiction (Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court) which, by law, is in the position of making a decision about the objection. Yet, this court, while stating that the local court has made a mistake on this issue, decided, on the other hand, without examining the petition of objection, that “there was no need to make a decision” regarding the objection and sent back the file. Besides, it produced an article that is not in the law by making a comment such as: “there may be a request of recusal for only one judge”. Hence, the right to objection that exists in our law of procedure was effectively abolished and the request for recusal was left inconclusive.
THE LAST SCANDAL RULING OF LIFE IMPRISONMENT
On January 24, 2013, Istanbul High Criminal Court No. 12 convicted and sentenced Pinar Selek to life imprisonment. The Court argued unjustly that it had decided to defer to the Court of Cassation’s request to convict and sentence Ms. Selek to life imprisonment. The acquittal of Abdülmecit Öztürk, the other defendant in the Spice Bazaar explosion was confirmed on the grounds that his acquittal was not appealed to the Supreme Court. Then the court went on to hand down a life sentence for Pınar Selek alone concerning the Spice Bazaar case. In this way, the other defendant’s testimony that was obtained under torture and subsequently denied in open court was not accepted as valid evidence by the court for him. However, the very same testimony that was deemed invalid in the case of Öztürk was taken as a valid basis for the judgment against Pınar Selek.
Chief Judge of the Court offered a dissenting opinion and voted in favor of Pınar Selek’s acquittal on the grounds that the Court had the right to insist on its acquittal ruling and that there was no adequate evidence for a conviction. However, based on the votes of the other two judges in the Board, the court issued the verdict with a two to one majority. However, this is not the final judgment; domestic ways of seeking legal recourse have not yet been exhausted and this unlawful verdict has been appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court will announce the date of the hearing after it finishes its own process.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Justice has sent a request to Interpol to issue Red Notice for Pinar Selek. Interpol has the right to accept or decline the Red Notice request.
WHAT POINT ARE WE AT RIGHT NOW?
At this stage, it is obvious that the case is not proceeding on a legal basis. While all this unlawfulness goes on, the Überleben Treatment Center for Victims of Torture prepared a special expert report dated August 2010, thereby officially confirming the torture Pinar Selek was subjected to under custody and the effects this left on her. This case, being so very long and unjust, has only furthered the victimization of Pinar Selek. It has therefore already been taken to the European Court of Human Rights as a precaution, demanding re-trial and indemnity, due to all the torture, the unjust legal proceedings and the disregard towards the freedom of expression.
AN EXCERPT FROM PINAR SELEK’S PLEA TO THE COURT… (17 MAY 2006)
“I present this text called ‘defense’ in the legal jargon, not in order to defend myself against the various charges and allegations against me, but in order to explain how I have stood up for my dignity, my personality, my pursuit for freedom and my way of life against the siege that I have been facing for a very long time.
Ever since my childhood, I’ve been trying to figure out how a happy, morally upright and emancipated life could be possible. I studied sociology in order to figure out answers to these questions, in order to understand my own self and the society, and in order to expand my own space of freedom… I believed that sociologists, just like doctors, should have the ability to treat the wounds of the society. After I completed my research on how transsexuals were being driven out of Ülker Street and presented it as my graduate thesis, I couldn’t just abandon these people whose lives and problems I had shared, merely because I’d ‘already got what I wanted.’ And so, I did not abandon them. I took part in a workshop along with these people I’ve met through various researches and who have each been affected by a different mechanism of isolation. It was called the Street Children’s ArtAtelier.
Our atelier was very small, but the effect it had was large, due to its productivity. This atelier, which many people would stop by every day, and homeless transsexuals and children would sometimes sleep in, was also a place to come in and share. Everybody could apply and have the chance to mix and bond with others. So, no matter who they were, everybody in trouble would come and visit us. Those who used to act aggressively because of the violence and isolation they experienced learned to trust themselves and others in our atelier. There were even some who quitted prostitution and drugs thanks to the power of art and sharing.
And that’s when it all fell apart. Just as we were starting to take root, I suddenly found myself within this infamous conspiracy and I became its central figure, its leading actress. The Spice Bazaar conspiracy was, first of all, an attack on the garden of love we had built out of mud, on our source of life in the desert. Our atelier, which was located in the middle of Beyoglu, was always welcome to everyone, so that people could come and go as they pleased. It was labeled as a bomb depot and the most active woman in the place was depicted as the bomber. When this happened the hopes of all those people in there, who constantly had to deal with trouble anyway, were completely shattered…
What happened from my perspective? I learned that this is the rule of the game. If you try to say the password out loud, you are declared guilty. Moreover, you aren’t blamed with saying the password out loud, but instead you are held guilty for something you’ve spent your whole life standing and fighting against. For instance, if you are a nun, you are accused of prostitution. If you’re somebody who has devoted their life to keeping Islamic values alive, they label you as an alcohol or drug trader. Or, as an anti-militarist, you are accused of being a bomber. And this is done in such a criminal way that you are forced to defend yourself. So, just as you are busy approaching a certain point, a certain focus, step by step, you are suddenly forced to start dealing with yourself. Accusation follows accusation and charges keep repeating themselves… Even though these accusations are merely allegations, the mud that has been thrown on you leaves its mark, and everyone who looks at you remembers these charges. From now on, it is impossible for you to carry on with your old identity. You aren’t charged with a thought crime, no. Neither are you declared a ‘peace criminal’. The war-mongering organization ‘terrorizes’ you, makes you into a terrorist, and presents you to millions with this new identity.
It pained me to watch the destruction of my research. But, worst of all, it was punishing an approach which had only attempted to touch upon and lay hands on festering wounds in the society, it also became a threat against any kind of diagnosis and treatment that was yet to come. Through me, a warning signal was given to all men and women who were in search of an independent stance. Fingers were wagged at sociologists and activists. And I was chosen as the symbol.
I protected myself; defended myself against the siege and damnation that threatened me. This conspiracy did not weaken me, but, with regards to our country, it did cause history to repeat itself. The research that was taken from me was one that, despite all its imperfection, sought ways, perspectives with which to analyze our problems, other than those which are through politics of national security. Being wrong or right is another issue. Yet if a phenomenon is real, what is important is to define this reality in depth… We must handle the atmosphere of violence which we have been living in for the past 20 years in a similar fashion. In order to overcome problems, one must first of all understand them; and in order to understand, one must research and explore.I believe that we can heal and recover, even with the slightest effort, provided that it is well-intentioned. But still we are not able to end this. Still, we can merely stand by and watch as the water gets dirtier by the minute, as we are slowly deprived of all air until we are left completely airless…”
WHO IS PINAR SELEK?
Sociologist, researcher, writer. She was born in Istanbul, in 1971. After studying in the Notre Dame De Sion High School, she went to Mimar Sinan University and she graduated as valedictorian from the Sociology department in 1996, with her thesis called From Babiali to Ikitelli, From the Smell of Ink to Plazas. She completed graduate studies in sociology in the same university. She took classes on economy-politics in the Sophiantipolis UDEL University in France. She drew attention with her work on street children, sex workers, gypsies and homosexuals while she was still in university. Selek, who is one of the founders of the Amargi Women’s Solidarity Cooperative, supports many NGOs and movements which focus on the struggle for peace, antimilitarism and human rights and she is an editor of the Amargi Feminist Theory Journal.
Selek’s translation/compilation called Ya Basta! Artık Yeter (Ya Basta! Enough is Enough),which is composed of the declarations of the EZLN Zapatista movement and Marcos’ letters, was published by Belge Publications in 1996. Her research called Maskeler, Süvariler, Gacilar (Masks, Riders, Trans Women) which focuses on the exclusion of transvestites and transsexuals on Ülker Street was published by Aykiri Publications in 2001, and Barisamadik (We Couldn’t Make Peace), which is about the problems experienced by the peace struggle and the leftist opposition was published by İthaki Publications in 2004. Her book Sürüne Sürüne Erkek Olmak (Masculinity in Drags) published by Iletisim Publications in 2008, in which she examines the role of military service in the construction of masculinity as a tool of hegemony and power, was also published in German as Zum Mann Gehätschelt, Zum Mann Gedrillt in 2010, by the Orlanda Publishing House. Pinar Selek also has three fairy tale books titledSu Damlasi (Water Drop) (2008,Özyürek Publications),Siyah Pelerinli Kiz (Girl with the Black Cape) (2009, Sahmaran Publications) andYesil Kiz (Green Girl) (2010, Özyürek Publications). Her first novel Yolgeçen Hanı (Caravanserai, 2011, İletişim Publishing) focusing on the pain, colour and different voices after the coup d’etat was published in 2011 by İletişim Yayınları and was also published in French as La Maison du Bosphore in 2013. Pinar Selek is currently conducting her doctoral studies in the area of “Sciences Politiques,” in Strasbourg University.