Press Statement from UK Delegation in Diyarbakir to observe the trial of 151 Kurdish political activists and human rights defenders:
We, as delegates from Britain of varying backgrounds and ethnicities welcome the opportunity that has been afforded to us to have firsthand insight into these historic trials. During our observations thus far we have had the opportunity of meeting and speaking with Mayors, Parliamentarians, Lawyers, Academics and many other interested parties. This has given us the opportunity to explore at firsthand the issues in these trials and have helped to shape our understanding of the actual meaning of these trials.
We had firsthand experience of being in the Courtroom with the 151 defendants and their 250 lawyers yesterday and today. We can confidently express our observations thus far in the following manner:
Turkey, in its desire and aspiration to become a member of the European Union has not shown that it has progressed very much in terms of its treatment and approach to the Kurdish people, their politicians and the Kurdish question generally so as to pave a way forward for peaceful dialog and solution. We are confident in finding that these trials are politically motivated and are an attempt to suppress the political struggle of the Kurdish people through the judicial system.
The manner in which the evidence in the trials is exaggerated is clear from the sheer volume of the 7,500 page indictment and supporting evidence, consisting of over 13,000,000 pages. In these pages there is no evidence of weapons or aggression in any kind directed at any of the defendants who stand trial. The only evidence obtained consists of intercept evidence of daily conversations and routine political propaganda or views and secret evidence by way of anonymous witnesses. Some conversations are in relation to the purchase of groceries i.e. tomatoes and in others the conversations are between family and friends. These conversations have found itself in the indictment as being secret codes. The fact that there is no evidence or suggestion of weaponry or aggression is in our view indicative of the will of the Kurdish people and politicians for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue, which we support and respect.
We find the manner in which the evidence was obtained and presented to the defence, which was some 15 months after the initial arrests on the 14th of April 2009, to be a concrete example of the unfairness of the trials thus far. A large proportion of the defendants are in custody, which has meant the defence has had very limited time to prepare the case for the trials in the 4 months since they received the evidence. We find this to be a breach of Article 6 of the ECHR.
The refusal to allow the defendants to express themselves in their mother tongue, Kurdish, is a denial of their basic human rights and is a breach of Article 6.
The real problem with this is that the charge is essentially a political one, whereby normal political activities such as lobbying, meetings and rallies are deemed to be criminal because it is said to be in support of a banned organisation, the PKK.
From what we have gathered, activities from elected representatives such as Mayors and general civil society organisations representatives organising events such as Women’s day celebrations on the 8th of March, Kurdish New Year festival, Nevroz, and campaigning for an environmental society, have been deemed criminal activities and placed within the indictment. Clearly, by any standards, activities such as those mentioned are completely lawful and innocent.
We have particular concern that 8 of the defendants are lawyers - 7 of which are in custody - and are indicted in this case simply for doing their job of defending their clients. In a modern society this is unacceptable.
At the very least, the fact that most of those in prison are leading members of a political party which had been successful at the last elections suggests that there is a straight forward electoral motive for the Turkish governing party the AKP, to support these prosecutions particularly as there is another election next year. If the Turkish government wishes to demonstrate that Turkey is a modern and democratic state it should urge the prosecution to release those in prison immediately.
At its worst it is a wholly political trial, to destroy or curb all activities and initiatives developed within the Kurdish population, and demolish its key institutions and vital civil society organisations.
Paradoxically, as Mr. Esber Yagmurdereli, a distinguished lawyer defending in this trial submitted to the Court yesterday, “...this case is brought by the public prosecutor, to prosecute the public...”
19 October 2010
Mr. Jeremy Corbin MP, Mr. Hywel Williams MP, Mr. Ali Has – Lawyer/Spokes person of Peace Council Britain, Mr. Hugo Charlton – Barrister, Mrs. Margaret Ann Owen - Barrister/Human Rights Activist and Serife Semsedini - Human Rights Activist.