Bronwen Jones reports on 6th hearing of KCK lawyers’ trial

 

Full report on the KCK Trial of Lawyers in Istanbul

By Bronwen Jones

 

Observations

Hearing of 6 November 2012

The court building at Koaeli Prison in Silivri is an approximately two-hour journey from Istanbul.

There was a significant Jandarma (gendarmerie) presence at the court.  International observers were required to surrender mobile phones, but were not searched on entry into the court building or show any identification, and were all permitted to sit inside court and were allowed access to court facilities.  Visiting Turkish lawyers showed their bar cards and were also permitted inside the courtroom.

The courtroom was over-full and family members of the defendants had to be accommodated in an ante-room outside of court with a large-screen television showing the proceedings.

The trial opened with submissions on behalf of all the prisoners in respect of the chaotic conditions in the courtroom.  It was said that the prison conditions were preferable.  The defendants and their lawyers were seated without order, with very little space, and interspersed with members of the Jandarma.

In the morning session, submissions were made:

-on the link between the trial and the hunger strikes;

-on the defendants’ request to represent themselves in Turkish and requesting that their defences in Kurdish be fully transcribed, instead of marked as “inaudible” in transcriptions;

-raising objections to the exclusion of the family members from the courtroom;

-on the weakness of the evidence in support of the “fantastical” charges against the defendants;

-on the perceived partiality of the presiding judge.

The judge asked that political submissions not be made but they continued regardless.  The judge also noted that it would be unfair not to allow the defendants to speak in Kurdish if they were unable to speak or understand Turkish.

After the luncheon adjournment, further submissions were made on the issue of using Kurdish in the courtroom.  When this submission was rejected “because there is no conformity in the political consensus,” and a defendant attempting to speak Kurdish had his microphone cut off, the defending lawyers walked out of court in protest.  Their place was taken by members of the Jandarma.  The Turkish observing lawyers also walked out although the international delegation remained.  At length the defendants’ family members were permitted to sit in the area vacated by the Turkish observers.

There followed an interrogation by the judge, in inquisitorial fashion, of each of the defendants.  This involved asking each defendant in turn whether he or she accepted certain facts such as the date on which they were arrested and the contents of their police statements.

All of the defendants save one attempted to speak in Kurdish, and each had their microphones switched off in turn.  One defendant (who was of Arab origin) answered in Turkish.

I was subsequently told that one defendant specifically stated in Kurdish that he did not accept the contents of his police statement, but that the judge recorded him as saying that he did, which contrasted with June 2012 when those speaking Kurdish were transcribed as inaudible or incomprehensible.

During a five-minute adjournment in the afternoon session, relatives of the defendants rushed the wooden barrier to see their loved ones but the Jandarma intervened to prevent them.  Defendants were then allowed to come forward one at a time to greet the family members.

On return from this adjournment a final defendant rose to say in Kurdish, “I am Kurdish and I am speaking in Kurdish.  You can bring an interpreter or not, I will speak my language.”  The prosecutor then requested that all the defendants be detained again without bail.  The judge rose to consider.

The court was in session from 10.30am to 12.30pm and from approximately 2pm for no more than one hour.  The judge’s decision to adjourn until 3 January 2013 and to refuse bail to all the defendants remaining in custody was announced at approximately 4pm.  The court sat for no more than 3 hours during the course of the day.

Hearing of 17 September 2013

The trial continued at Koaeli Prison complex in Silivri.  There was a reduced, but still noticeable, Jandarma presence.  International observers were required to surrender identification documents along with their mobile phones on entry into the court.

The court building was much larger than the one used in November 2012, and the international observers were allowed to walk around it and use all of the facilities.  In November 2012 people were allowed into the building a few at a time and segregated into observers and family members (the family members being kept in the anteroom outside the courtroom).  It was also extremely crowded in the entrance areas.  In this building there were no restrictions on movement either from crowding or from the Jandarma.  The international observers were allowed to use the advocates’ room with the defending lawyers.

The courtroom itself was extremely large.  In fact, we learnt later that it is the largest in Europe.  It was far longer than it was wide, and at the extreme front sat judge, prosecutor, defending lawyers (in banks of seats on the right which face left) and defendant lawyers (in banks of seats facing forward in the centre).

The international observers were sat in banks of seats at the far rear of the courtroom.  In between, there were rows and rows of seats in three sections, with seats on the right and left facing sideways and fronted by bench-style tables, and seats in the middle facing forwards.  The seats to right and left had signs on them saying “AVUKAT” (lawyers).   Jandarma sit at random towards the rear of the “Avukat” seats.  Again, the defendants were sat in the very front of the middle section, lawyers in the very front on the right.

We were seated so far away from the bench that it is impossible to see anything of the judges or the prosecutor other than the tops of their heads.  We could make out when the judge stood up, sat down, or made particularly effusive arm gestures, but we were not able to see any of his facial expressions.  We were told that there had been a change in personnel; both of the two secondary judges and the prosecutor have been changed.  No explanation had been given to the defending lawyers for these changes.

The defendants gave their evidence to the judge.  In the morning sessions, the defending lawyers intervened only in order to object to questions.  In the afternoon sessions, defence cases were interspersed with submissions by individual defending lawyers.  The submissions were made on behalf of all of the defendants.  There was very little difference between submissions made by the defendants and those made on their behalf.

Some defendants and defending lawyers made political speeches about the status of Kurds in Turkey.  One defendant told a story of watching his village being destroyed at the age of five, another of civil unrest by fascists against the Kurds.

Others complained that the basis of the prosecution’s evidence is merely the “subjective hypothesis” of the police concerning the lawyers’ activities and refer to the “fictional leadership committee” to which they allegedly belong.

There were extensive complaints about the weakness of the evidence.  The Turkish-speaking defendant stated, “This is a political case.  It is difficult to make legal submissions.  There is no evidence to support the allegations.  We are being asked to prove our innocence against no evidence….  I don’t see that I should have to defend myself against this.  I see this as a historical shame on our justice system.”    Later she said, “They charged my husband based on phone conversations.  The case collapsed.  Now they charge me,” and later still, “I do not see this as a trial, it is theatre.  This is not justice.  Turkey is now at the front of waging war against my people, the Arabs [in Syria].  How can I expect justice?”

Some of the defendants expressed gratitude to the international delegation for coming to observe the trials.  During the afternoon session one of the defending lawyers complained that the delegation was required to sit so far to the rear.  The judge asked why this was being raised so late in the day and moved on.  (I was told that an application had been made at the June hearing for the international delegation to be allowed to sit close to the front, and the judge had refused.)

Repeated requests were made both by the defendants and the defending lawyers for Abdullah Öcalan to be called as a defence witness.  One defendant said, “Since the first hearing our lawyers and we have been saying this case is about Abdullah Öcalan and his conditions.  All the indictments are about him.  I therefore request him as a witness.”  Another pointed out that this request has been made repeatedly for two years with no decision being made.

The point was also repeatedly made that as part of the peace process, members of the BDP and of Erdoğan’s government are now visiting Öcalan on İmralı and conveying the content of their discussions to the government and the press.   The question was repeatedly asked how it could be that the crimes with which the defendant lawyers are charged are based on the exact same actions as those now sanctioned by the government as part of the peace process.

The defending lawyers stated that the judge should be acting to reject the case because of the weakness of the evidence and on the basis that the Heavy Penal Court is a creature of a statute that has since been repealed.  One lawyer said “Technically speaking you should not have taken on these cases.  This is a temporary court not a criminal court.  There’s no legal basis for these courts.”  It was suggested that the temporary status of the court might be affecting judicial decision-making.

Another defending lawyer said that in all of the intercept evidence (said to be illegal in any event) there was no mention of a leadership committee, and that the indictment was therefore “baseless,” with “no evidential foundation.”   It was further stated that the entire case has been built on a statement of an individual named Irfan Dündaz, who is “neither witness nor accused,” and which statement has apparently since been retracted.

The final defendant, a journalist, spoke at length about the nature of his work and about his visits to a refugee camp in Syria.  He said that the police alleged that this was a PKK camp, but in fact it is an internationally-recognised refugee camp.  He added that he didn’t know many of his co-defendants until the trial began and that while the indictment claims he presented some evidence to them, the source of that information was not him.

The judge’s input was limited.  In respect of the first defendant to speak, he made the following interventions:

“When you were arrested, did you know that the KCK existed?” [“Yes, because I knew people who were involved.”]

“Before your meetings with Öcalan, you would have meetings in your office and the allegation is that you passed on commands.  What do you say to that?”  [“I deny it.  I was just a lawyer.”]

“When you went [to İmralı] on 15.07.09, which case was that?”  [“It was because of Abdullah Öcalan’s health concerns and the ongoing ECtHR case.”]

“There is no legal content in your notes.”  [“I don’t accept that;” the defendant added that he wouldn’t answer further because the contents of his notes are privileged.]

In respect of the rest of the defendants, the judge asked whether they had visited İmralı; what the legal basis of these visits was; and if they went to any meetings before or after their visits.  The defendants responded variously that they conducted visits and meetings as part of the normal course of their work; or that they would not respond to certain questions on grounds of legal privilege.  The judge asked one defendant if he had anything further to say about the visits, and another whether the contents of his police statements were accepted.  Apart from these interventions, the judge spoke only in response to being directly addressed by one of the defendants or defending lawyers, or to chastise a defendant or defending lawyer for political commentary.  There were some heated exchanges between the lawyers and the judge in which the lawyers accused the judge of bias and the judge responded that he would not be taught how to run his court.

The prosecutor’s only input throughout the whole day was at the end of the afternoon session to request that the arrest warrants for the defendants still in custody should continue and that their detention should also continue.

After a ten minute adjournment the judge announces that he will not hear from Öcalan and that no further defendants are to be granted bail.  No reasons are given for his decisions.

General observations

The court’s attitude towards the international observers can be described as ambivalent.

The first hearing in the matter was heard at a court in Istanbul.  I am told that this court was too small to accommodate all of the observers.  I am not certain whether there is any court inside Istanbul of sufficient size; in any event, the entire proceedings were then moved to the courthouse in the Koaeli prison complex.

At the November hearing, the courtroom was still too small to accommodate the family members of the relatives in addition to all of the Turkish and international observers.  However, since then the proceedings have been moved to a courtroom in the same complex which is the size of a sports field and which I am told is the largest in Europe.  There have been no further problems with overcrowding, nor has there been a need to exclude family members from the proceedings.

A further justification for moving the proceedings is that the defendants are being held in Koaeli prison.  Again, I am not aware whether they have been held there throughout their detention, or whether in fact they were moved when the decision was made to move the proceedings.

The location of the trial does provide an obstacle to observers, but one that is easily overcome as the international delegation simply hires coaches to drive them to the prison complex.  I cannot say definitively that reducing access to the trial for observers, family members, and the press was any part of the decision to move the proceedings from Istanbul to Silivri, but it seems possible.

In addition, two hearings have been scheduled to coincide with festive periods in Western Europe.  The first was 3rd January 2013, when only twenty observers attended as a result.[1]  Most recently, the next hearing date after the hearing of 17 September 2013 has been set for 19 December 2013.

At the hearings, there is always a presence, and has at times been a heavy presence, of Jandarma.  However, no body searches are carried out and at the November 2012 hearing the international observers were not even required to produce identification.  In addition we are permitted to sit in the courtroom at each hearing and are also allowed access to all the court facilities.  At the September 2013 hearing we were permitted to use the advocates’ room as well.  I would say that our treatment varies between mild indifference, tolerance and respect.

However, it is of note that in the current courtroom, the international observers are seated at the back, and that requests to allow them to move forward, so more easily to observe the proceedings, have been refused at the hearings of June and September 2013.  This does hamper our ability to observe what is happening as the prosecutor and judge are seated far too far away for their facial expressions, or even all but the most extreme movements (standing up or sitting down, particularly demonstrative arm gestures, etc), to be seen.  In addition, the presence of the international delegation, while the subject of frequent references from the defence, is never referred to by judge or prosecution.

In short, I would say that an attempt is being made to comply at a minimal level with any expectation that international observers be given access to the proceedings.

 

Issues of concern

The use of intercept evidence

In addition to audio and video recordings of Abdullah Öcalan’s conferences with his lawyers, the prosecution’s evidence has been obtained from telephone intercepts, search warrants for business and personal premises, analysis of publications/translations and interviews with media and “technical searches” via telephone signals to identify a defendant’s geographical location, and information from hard disks and physical case files.[2]

Sections 135 and 140 of Turkish Law on Criminal Trials provide that, subject to first obtaining judicial authority, communications of a subject or defendant can be traced if an investigation reveals good reason to suspect an offence has been committed and if the evidence cannot be obtained through other methods.  The authority can cover sound, audio-visual records and monitoring the person’s behaviour in public areas.[3]

In the Öcalan lawyers’ trial, an application for judicial authority was made but the defending lawyers have repeatedly submitted that the authority given was exceeded and that the basis of the order giving authority is questionable.

Section 135 TLCT takes into account freedom of communication, which is enshrined in Article 22 of the Turkish Constitution, and thus imposes many restrictions on tracing communications for a criminal investigation.  These are based on proportionality, practicability and the ability to obtain evidence by other means – so this sort of evidence should be a “last resort” and can only be used at trial if obtained lawfully.[4]

The challenges that have been made to the intercept evidence in the Öcalan lawyers’ trial are as follows:

It is asserted that no reasons were given for authorisation of the intercept evidence.[5]  How then can proportionality be demonstrated?

It is asserted that the telephone recordings do not follow the procedural codes for intercepting telephone calls.[6]

Some of the calls took place between two lawyers in relation to one of whom no authority had been obtained, nor had their consent.[7]

It is asserted that many of the recordings were outside of the time period for which authority had been given.[8]

Personal conversations between spouses were included, the contents of which were irrelevant to the case.[9]  As well as the article 6 ECHR concerns raised by all of these objections, this assertion raises additional, significant concerns under Article 8.

It is asserted that no authority given for the “technical” searches.[10]

Although it may not raise any point under the ECHR, it is noteworthy that much of the evidence in this trial was achieved through a breach of legal professional privilege in relation to Abdullah Öcalan, through the audio and audio-visual recording of his conferences with his lawyers.  There have been further breaches in relation to the lawyers’ other clients – case files in relation to other clients were seized and when the defendants requested their return they were returned by the prosecuting authorities to the police, instead of to the defendants.

Commencement of the proceedings

It has been asserted that before a prosecution against a lawyer is taken in Turkey, domestic legislation (the Turkish Lawyers Act 1927) requires that the consent of the Ministry of Justice is obtained, and that no such consent has been obtained before the commencement the Öcalan lawyers’ trial.  It is asserted that this nullifies the proceedings.[11]

Length of proceedings

Art 6(1) ECHR provides the right to “trial within a reasonable time.”  The Öcalan lawyers’ trial commenced in June 2012, and only six hearings have taken place.  This cannot be reasonable.

Refusal of bail

Article 5(3) ECHR provides the right to “trial within a reasonable time or release pending trial.”

The defendants in the Öcalan lawyers’ trial were first detained in April 2012.  Since then:

-two were granted police bail prior to the first hearing

-nine were released at the first hearing in June 2012

-none were released at the second hearing in November 2012

-one was released at the third hearing in January 2013

-at the time of the March hearing, 28 were still in custody,[12] which leaves ten defendants on bail who were not released at the times listed above; I am unsure as to when they were released;

-four were released at the fourth hearing in March 2013

-seven were released at the fifth hearing in June 2013

-none were released at the sixth hearing in September 2013

-sixteen remain in custody and have thus been in custody for eighteen months at the time of writing

(I am unclear as to when the remaining eleven defendants were released, as only sixteen remain in custody.)

None of the decisions to grant or refuse bail were reasoned.  There is no reason to consider that any of the defendants are a risk for absconding or re-offending; those released have been released subject to conditions not to act in “political” cases and not to leave the country, and to reporting restrictions.  The reporting restrictions have been complied with to the extent that they were relaxed in November 2012.[13]  At the beginning of the trial all the defendants answered bail, including many who returned from outside of the country to answer charges.[14]  The defendants are all Turkish-trained lawyers with practices and families in Turkey.

Lack of reasoned decisions

Very few of the decisions made by the court in these proceedings have been reasoned.  The following decisions have been made without any reasons being given:

All decisions on the grant or refusal of bail;[15]

The decision to allow the inclusion of all of the intercept evidence, despite the challenges set out above;

The decision at each of the first five hearings to adjourn the decision as to whether or not to allow the defence to call Abdullah Öcalan as a witness;

The decision at each hearing to date to adjourn the proceedings until a date two or three months in the future;

The decision at the hearing of 6 November 2012 to shorten the time estimate for that hearing from three days to one day;

The decision at the hearing of 17 September 2013 to refuse to allow the defence to call Abdullah Öcalan as a witness.

A notable exception is that at the hearing in November 2012, the judge refused to allow the defendant lawyers to give their evidence in Turkish on the basis that all the defendants spoke Turkish and had made their initial statements to the authorities in Turkish, and that therefore they did not require or need to address the court in Kurdish.[16]

Weakness of the evidence

As noted above, some of the evidence includes personal conversations between lawyers and their spouses which have no relevance to the trial; some consists of conversations between the lawyers and clients other than Abdullah Öcalan; some is of legitimate articles published by the defendants in magazines and newspapers, works translated or interviews given, arguably contravening Art 10 ECHR.

The dubious sources of the evidence aside, the contents of the indictment are frequently vague and it is arguable whether they disclose any offence.  By way of limited examples, the following excerpts from a detailed summary of the indictment are the complete entries of the suspects named in them:

  • “Following tapping of telephone conversations, it is clear the suspect [Emran Emekçi] displays organisational attitude and speech with a leader’s expression:

“01.02.2011 conversation between Emran EMEKÇİ and Mehmet BAYRAKTAR where the two discuss a meeting with Öcalan that didn’t take place due to bad weather conditions.”[17]

  •  “The above suspect [Bedri Kuran] has visited Öcalan 4 times during the years 2007-2011

“In order to avoid repetition and in addition to the subjects above,

“25.05.2011 meeting between Öcalan and lawyers where KURAN was present, the following subjects were discussed: Kongra Gel’s 8th assembly, developments in North Iraq’s leadership, Iran and PJAK, operations clashes, KCK Europe developments, general election activities, post-election umbrella party organisation developments, letters Öcalan sent to Knadil, columnist’s pieces, etc.  And other matters relating to the organisation [emphasis added].

“Media organs that are affiliated and/or sympathetic to the belief and causes of the PKK/KCK, and news pieces gathered from these websites have been analysed and are displayed in the folder.”

[Despite the contents of the second sentence of the entry, I was unable to find any reference to Bedri Kuran in any of the other entries in the indictment.][18]

  • [Davut Uzunköprü] met Öcalan twice during 09-11 and discussed matters as with other lawyers thus relating to the organisation and its agenda.  Thus there is no legal substance to the meetings with Öcalan and the suspect, instead, the meetings are used as a tool to discuss organisational mattrs as above.

“The telephone conversations indicate organisational sympathy, affiliation and speech:

“Media organs sympathetic to the organisation have also published related topics, including the suspect’s name and statements.”[19]

  • “Suspect [Hüseyin Karusu] is a driver, and drove the suspect lawyers to İmralı on their visits; took part within the leadership of the organisation knowingly and willingly; took part in organisational activities.

“Telephone conversation on 14.11.2011 showing sympathy for the suspected lawyers.”[20]

  • “[Sıdık Bal was also] a driver for the suspected lawyers as with above KARUSU; showed organisational sympathy and affiliation; evidenced in the form of telephone conversations as with above.”[21]
  • “When the activities of the senior leadership of the organisation are taken into account, this suspect [Sabahat Zeynep Arat] has shown loyalty; that they are trustable to the organisation leadership; thus they have shown that within the leadership of the organisation that they are reliable, willing and committed to carry out organisational activities.

“These are an example of the evidence against the suspect whose occupation as a secretary within the leadership committee of the PKK/KCK-affiliated ASRIN LAW FIRM: the suspect was responsible for all communication; calls; management; organisation within the law firm therefore was aware of any meetings, their substance, the attendees of the meetings; that she carried out all these activities with an organisational intention; with confidentiality; thus the suspect is guilty of the crimes she has been accused of.”[22]

Finally, a large number of entries in the indictment consist of nothing more than an account of the number of times the defendant visited Öcalan, the dates between which these visits took place, the topics discussed between the defendant and Öcalan, and the following paragraph:

“When the meetings with Öcalan are analysed, along with other such meetings, it is clear that the meetings the suspect has had with Öcalan have no legal basis or advice, and are solely to TRANSMIT organisational information to ÖCALAN; in turn he received ORGANISATIONAL INSTRUCTIONS from Öcalan to further advance the organisation; thus by providing intercommunication between the PKK/KONGRA GEL and ÖCALAN, the suspect is guilty of mediating; that to further the existence and presence of the organisation, they have acted as mediators who have provided members with information and direct; thus they have provided assistance with the organisation’s “STRATEGY” and “MANAGEMENT.”[23]

Defence submissions have repeatedly asserted that police statements appear to give opinions on the factual evidence in an attempt to influence the judge.  Some such submissions were made at the hearing I observed on 17 September 2013.

The trial takes place in the larger political context of the struggle between the PKK and the Turkish authorities, itself an iteration of the still larger global struggle of the Kurdish people for cultural autonomy and rights.  Specifically, the initial arrests were made and the trial continues in the context of mass political arrests and political trials – the “KCK trials.”  Prisoners held hunger strikes for Kurdish language rights from September to November 2012, to limited success as the laws was amended to allow the use of Kurdish in court subject to certain restrictions.  In 2013, the trial has been carried on against the backdrop of a renewed peace process between the Turkish government and the PKK.

Concerns under UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted in 1990

18 – “Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.”

22 – “Governments shall recognize and respect that all communications and consultations between lawyers and their clients within their professional relationship are confidential.”

The multiple procedural flaws identified above, in addition to the politicisation of this trial and the weakness of the evidence, leads this observer to conclude that the charges underlying this trial are in violation of these Articles.

 

Appendix.

 

Timeline

1999  Abdullah Öcalan is captured and imprisoned on the island prison of İmralı; his conferences with his lawyers are monitored[24]

2005  Turkish authorities begin to routinely record all meetings between Abdullah Öcalan and his legal advisors – video and audio recording[25]

2006  Establishment of the Court of Special Authority for terrorism trials[26]

April 2009  Local elections in which the BDP makes significant gains

From April 2009 Four waves of police operations targeting and arresting different groups for alleged terrorist activity arising out of involvement with the KCK: politicians, academics, journalists and trade unionists;[27]approximately 10,000 are arrested[28]

April 2011  Oslo discussions between the PKK and the Turkish government collapse

November 2011 Arrest of 50 defendants (46 lawyers from 16 different bar associations, 1 journalist, 1 secretary and 2 drivers) simultaneously in different parts of Turkey

April 2012   Defendants taken into pre-trial custody

July 2012  Abolishment of Court of Special Authority (to take effect after end of current trial)[29]

First hearing Defendants attempt to defend themselves in Kurdish; are prevented from doing so; and are therefore unable to offer a defence. 9 defendants are released on bail with reporting conditions and a prohibition against travel abroad

12.09.12   On the anniversary of the military coup of 1980, many detainees, but not including defendants in the trial of Abdullah Öcalan’s lawyers (“the Öcalan lawyers’ trial”), go on hunger strike;[30] the number of strikers reportedly increases to 2000 by early November, to include some of the defendants in the Öcalan lawyers’ trial

04.11.12  A large demonstration by lawyers is violently suppressed[31]

05.11.12 A further large demonstration of lawyers takes place in İstanbul

06.11.12   Second hearing in the Koaeli prison complex, Silivri (outside Istanbul), Turkey[32]

It is reported that some hunger strikers are near death[33]

An international delegation attends with approximately 50 [34]observers from UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Canada[35]

The hearing lasts less than two hours[36]

The judge interrogates defendants on whether they accept their statements to the police; the defendants attempt to speak Kurdish and have their microphones cut off (save one defendant of Arab origin who gives her evidence in Turkish); one defendant states in Kurdish that he does not accept the contents of his witness statement to the police but the judge records his response as “silence;” the defence lawyers walk out of court in protest[37]

No new defendants are granted bail[38]

12.11.12  An amendment to Article 202 comes into effect allowing the use of a defendant’s mother tongue if they can express themselves better in that language; defendants are to be required to pay for their own interpreters[39]

18.11.12  The hunger strikes end at the request of Abdullah Öcalan

03.01.13 Third hearing in Silivri

Reduced international delegation – 20 observers from UK, France, Germany, and the Netherlands[40]

Application for adjournment for new law on use of Kurdish – refused[41]

All defendants save one, Umit Şişligün, refuse to answer questions unless provided with an interpreter; Mr Şişligün states that the allegations in his case file are untrue[42]

Submissions are made in the afternoon on the intercept evidence, the length of proceedings/detention (possible violations of Art 5/6), the role of the Jandarma, and on the basis that the defendants are being criminalised for carrying out their professional duties[43]

One further defendant is released on bail – Umit Şişligün[44]

18.01.13 15 further lawyers are arrested in raids across Turkey, mostly members of the Progressive Lawyers Association and/or who have worked for the People’s Legal Aid Bureau and including 9 individuals who were appointed as defence lawyers in the Öcalan lawyers’ trial[45]

02.02.13  The United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights writes to Prime Minister Erdoğan expressing concern about the January arrests[46]

08.02.13   The President of the Law Society of England and Wales writes to Prime Minister Erdoğan expressing concern about the January arrests[47]

24.02.13 Law 6411 comes into force, amending Article 212(4) of the Code of Criminal Procedure so as to allow defendants in court to use the language they are most comfortable speaking[48]

21.03.13  On Newroz, the Kurdish New Year, Abdullah Öcalan releases a statement calling for a ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish state[49]

26.03.13  Fourth hearing

40 international observers present from the UK, France, the Netherlands and Germany[50]

Following the change in law, the defendants were permitted to express themselves in Kurdish through an interpreter[51]

20 defendants heard, making submissions on: the use of Kurdish; being associated with their client; the need for independence of the judiciary; the political motivations behind the trial; complaints about the evidence such as use of articles written, and speeches and interviews given, by the defendants; the possibility of double jeopardy in respect of the charges against three specific defendants; and the role of the police in the formation of the evidence[52]

4 defendants are released on bail; 24 remain in custody[53]

20.06.13 Fifth hearing

The defence continues to request that Abdullah Öcalan is called as a defence witness; the decision is adjourned[54]

7 defendants are released on bail; 15 remain in custody[55]

Summer/early autumn 2013

Widespread protests take place throughout Turkey against the Erdoğan government and are violently suppressed by police

The peace process falters, with PKK and Kurdish leaders saying the Turkish government is making no response to the PKK withdrawal, and the Turkish government alleging that the withdrawal is incomplete

17.09.13 Sixth hearing

Continuation of defence case, followed by defence submissions

The defence request to call Abduallah Öcalan as a witness is refused

No further defendants are granted bail

30.09.13 AKP government announces package of reforms: [56]

-decriminalising the use of non-Turkish letters “w,” “x” and “z”

-allowing election campaigns to be conducted in languages other than Turkish

-lifting the requirement that schoolchildren repeat a nationalistic vow beginning “I am a Turk” once each school week

-Introducing a debate in Parliament to reduce the threshold for a party to enter parliament from 10% to 5% of the popular vote

-allowing education in languages other than Turkish in non-state schools

-lifting the ban on the headscarf in state institutions, except in the military and for judges and prosecutors, where it will be retained

-returning land to a Syriac monastery, Mor Gabriel in southeastern Turkey

The BDP complains that the reforms do not go far enough in that:

-they do not allow education in Kurdish in state schools, only in fee-paying schools

-the BDP demands that the threshold is eliminated rather than reduced

-no plans are set out to re-open the Greek Orthodox seminary on Heybeliada (Halki in Greek)

 

 


[1] Fisher, Tony, “Trial Observation Report: Hearing of 3rd January 2013,” (Report of hearing at Silivri Court Istanbul 3rd January 2013, KCK Lawyers Trial).  London: Human Rights Committee, Law Society of England and Wales, 6th January 2013, p. 3.

[2] Fisher, Tony, “Trial Observation Report: Hearing of 3rd January 2013,” (Report of hearing at Silivri Court Istanbul 3rd January 2013, KCK Lawyers Trial).  London: Human Rights Committee, Law Society of England and Wales, 6th January 2013, p. 1.

[3] Ibid, p. 2.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Trial Observation Report: Hearing of 3rd January 2013,” (Report of hearing at Silivri Court Istanbul 3rd January 2013, KCK Lawyers Trial).  London: Human Rights Committee, Law Society of England and Wales, 6th January 2013, p. 5.

[6] Ibid, p. 4.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid, p. 5.

[11] Fisher, Tony.  “Follow-up report by Tony Fisher: KCK trial of Kurdish lawyers – Istanbul 6th November 2012,” 8 November 2012.  http://international.lawsociety.org.uk/node/12507

[12] Fisher, Tony.  “Trial Observation Report: Hearing of 28th March 2013,” (Report of hearing at Silivri Court Istanbul 28th March 2013,” p. 2.  London: Human Rights Committee, Law Society of England and Wales, 2 April 2013.  http://international.lawsociety.org.uk/files/KCK%20Trial%2028th%20March%202013%20Report.pdf

[13] Fisher, Tony.  “Follow-up report by Tony Fisher: KCK trial of Kurdish lawyers – Istanbul 6th November 2012,” 8 November 2012.  http://international.lawsociety.org.uk/node/12507

[14] Specifically, they returned from Iraq and Syria.  “Trial Observation Report: Hearing of 3rd January 2013,” (Report of hearing at Silivri Court Istanbul 3rd January 2013, KCK Lawyers Trial).  London: Human Rights Committee, Law Society of England and Wales, 6th January 2013, pp. 5-6.

[15] Fisher, Tony.  “Follow-up report by Tony Fisher: KCK trial of Kurdish lawyers – Istanbul 6th November 2013,” 8 November 2013.  http://international.lawsociety.org.uk/node/12507

[16] Ibid.

[17] “Trial of lawyers for alleged terrorist offences (the ‘KCK Trials’) – Unofficial Translation and Summary of Indictment” (Executive summary of charges against Defendants and evidence on the basis of which conviction is sought by the prosecutor, together with a more detailed summary of the individual charges brought against each of the Defendants), p. 9.

[18] “Trial of lawyers for alleged terrorist offences (the ‘KCK Trials’) – Unofficial Translation and Summary of Indictment” (Executive summary of charges against Defendants and evidence on the basis of which conviction is sought by the prosecutor, together with a more detailed summary of the individual charges brought against each of the Defendants), p. 13-14.

[19] Ibid, p. 15.

[20] Ibid, p. 27.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] “Trial of lawyers for alleged terrorist offences (the ‘KCK Trials’) – Unofficial Translation and Summary of Indictment” (Executive summary of charges against Defendants and evidence on the basis of which conviction is sought by the prosecutor, together with a more detailed summary of the individual charges brought against each of the Defendants).

[24] Briefing meeting of 5 November 2012, Istanbul Bar Association, İstiklal Caddesi.

[25] Fisher, Tony, “Follow-up report by Tony Fisher: KCK Trial of Kurdish Lawyers – Istanbul 6th November 2012,” 8 November 2012.  http://international.lawsociety.org.uk/node/12507.

[26] Peace in Kurdistan Campaign: Lawyers trial delegation briefing meeting (notes), 23 October 2012.

[27] Fisher, Tony, “Follow-up report by Tony Fisher: KCK Trial of Kurdish Lawyers – Istanbul 6th November 2012,” 8 November 2012.  http://international.lawsociety.org.uk/node/12507.

[28] Peace in Kurdistan, Press Release, 5 November 2012.

[29] Peace in Kurdistan Campaign: Lawyers trial delegation briefing meeting (notes), 23 October 2012.

[30] Ibid.

[31] KCK trial delegation: Post-delegation briefing notes, 22 November 2012.

[32] Fisher, Tony, “Follow-up report by Tony Fisher: KCK Trial of Kurdish Lawyers – Istanbul 6th November 2012,” 8 November 2012.  http://international.lawsociety.org.uk/node/12507.

[33] Ibid.

[34] KCK trial delegation: Post-delegation briefing notes, 22 November 2012.

[35] Statement of the international delegation, November 2012, signed by the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association (IBA), Conférence Internationale des Barreaux de Tradition Juridique Commune (CIB), European Democratic Lawyers (EDL/AED), International Association of People’s Lawyers, Solicitors International Human Rights Group (UK), Lawyers for Lawyers (Netherlands), Netherlands Bar Association, Amsterdam Bar Association, Lawyer’s Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), Democratic Lawyers of Switzerland, Fair Trial Watch (Netherlands), Progress Lawyers Network (Belgium), Lawyers Without Borders (Sweden), Conseil National des Barreaux (France), Fédération Nationale des Unions de Jeunes Avocats (FNUJA), Syndicat des Avocats de France (SAF), Berliner Anwaltskammer, Barreaux de Grenoble, Montpelier, Paris, Quimper, Nantes, Bordeaux & Toulouse, Ordre français des Avocats du Barreau de Bruxelles, Barreau de Rennes, Instituts des droits de l’Homme du Barreau de Grenoble et Institut des droits de l’Homme du Barreau de Montpellier, Alternative Intervention of Lawyers (AIL) Athens, Greece, UK Bar Human Rights Committee, Peace in Kurdistan UK, Law Society of England and Wales, Republikanishcer Anwaeltinnen und Anwaelteverein (RAV) & Deutscher Anwaltverein (DAV), Germany

[36] Statement of international delegation, November 2012.

[37] KCK trial delegation: Post-delegation briefing notes, 22 November 2012.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Fisher, Tony.  “Trial Observation Report: Hearing of 3rd January 2013,” (Report of hearing at Silivri Court Istanbul 3rd January 2013, KCK Lawyers Trial).  London: Human Rights Committee, Law Society of England and Wales, 6th January 2013, p. 3.

[41] Ibid, 6.

[42] Ibid, p. 3.

[43] Ibid, p. 4-6.

[44] Ibid, p. 6.

[45] Fisher, Tony.  “Trial Observation Report: Hearing of 28th March 2013,” (Report of hearing at Silivri Court Istanbul 28 March 2013, KCK Lawyers Trial).  London: Human Rights Committee, Law Society of England and Wales, 2 April 2013, p. 2.  http://international.lawsociety.org.uk/files/KCK%20Trial%2028th%20March%202013%20Report.pdf.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Gingell, Melanie, “Report on Bar Human Rights Committee Hearing Observation: Turkey.  A report on a pre-trial hearing in the case of 46 Turkish lawyers, Istanbul – Heavy Penal Court, Koaeli Prison, Silivri,” 28 March 2013.

[49] Collingsworth, Didem A.  The Kurdish Movement and the Peace talks with Turkey.  International Crisis Group, 13 March 2013.

[50] Fisher, Tony.  “Trial Observation Report: Hearing of 28th March 2013,” (Report of hearing at Silivri Court Istanbul 28 March 2013, KCK Lawyers Trial).  London: Human Rights Committee, Law Society of England and Wales, 2 April 2013, p. 4.  http://international.lawsociety.org.uk/files/KCK%20Trial%2028th%20March%202013%20Report.pdf

[51] Ibid.

[52] Fisher, Tony.  “Trial Observation Report: Hearing of 28th March 2013,” (Report of hearing at Silivri Court Istanbul 28 March 2013, KCK Lawyers Trial).  London: Human Rights Committee, Law Society of England and Wales, 2 April 2013, pp. 4-5.  http://international.lawsociety.org.uk/files/KCK%20Trial%2028th%20March%202013%20Report.pdf

[53] Ibid, p. 2.

[54] Press release of International delegation observing lawyers trial 20 June in Istanbul, 21 June 2013.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Birch, Jonathan and Gulsen Solakar, “Turkey presents reforms aimed at pressing Kurdish peace process.”  Reuters, 30 September 2013.  http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/09/30/uk-turkey-politics-reforms-idUKBRE98T0HP20130930

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