Update on Kemal Seven: A Personal Story of an Arrest

Kemal Seven is one of the dozens of people arrested a few days ago for being members of the Kurdish-affiliated BDP party (at the time of their activity a legal organization). He was charged with supporting a terrorist organization, the PKK. His son-in-law Jeff Gibbs described Seven’s arrest (here), giving us an inside view of how the Turkish police and justice system operate. It’s not pretty. Here is his account of Seven’s “hearing”.  Below is an excerpt.

…we finally get details about how the raid went down. When the prosecutor decided to accuse the BDP academy of terrorism, they had the police sweep the entire school for fingerprints. Anyone who had been there within the past few days was taken—students, visitors, teachers, and even a man from a shop on the first floor who’d gone up one afternoon for tea. So much for evidence, due process, rule of law or even logic.

…A Turkish arrest has two stages. First you are göz altına almak or ‘taken under the eye’. You’re held in detention as the courts evaluate your case and decide if you have committed a crime. Then  you are tutuklanmak—or formally charged. Once this happens, you languish in prison until your case comes to trial, sometimes more than a year later. For my father-in-law, this  would mean the dreaded F-Type prison condemned by human rights groups around the world. This is the fate we are praying desperately to avoid.

A verdict did not come till early the following afternoon, and the news was bad.  Forty-four people had been charged with membership in the KCK—including my father -in-law. The next day that number would become forty six as two more students were condemned. The defense attorneys, sixteen people in all, stormed out of the courthouse and flung their lawyers robes to the ground in a show of protest. ‘This is not justice. This is a mockery of the law,’ they said.

The  prosecutions case, one explained, consisted not of evidence or testimony or proof of any kind—but a single question posed to my father-in-law and his compatriots. ‘Are you a member of the KCK?’…

It’s baffling, this sudden return to the mentality of the 90s.  When Turkey has been making an effort to find and exonerate those buried in anonymous mass graves in the East. When they have been trying men like Ayhan Çarkın who admitted to over 1000 assassinations of the government’s political opponents. When for the first time a Kurdish language classes open at universities.

Delal’s dad is being sent to Kandıra prison in Izmit two hours away—far enough from us to make visiting difficult. It will be more difficult for the poorer families. As mentioned before, it’s one of the notorious F-type prisons….  They became famous for extreme brutality and maltreatment.  Music would be blared for hours through the cells (This is called Disco Torture…) Prisoners would be isolated for days at a time in the dark. Beatings, sleepless nights where they were forced to sing nationalist marches again and again…

4 Responses to “Update on Kemal Seven: A Personal Story of an Arrest”

  1. Alex Christie-Miller has an entry about this: http://turkeyetc.blogspot.com/2011/11/kck-arrests.html
    What he might be missing about the reasons why people don’t outright question the goings on is TCK-288. Even on the net I have certainly seen threats of prosecution thrown around (over that DR and PD’s blog about the Sledgehammer case). The PM himself said something like that to TUSAID, on the Van U. rector’s case: http://hurarsiv.hurriyet.com.tr/goster/printnews.aspx?DocID=3686121
    (That case was very important, to my mind, because all the elements of what we see now on KCK, Ergenekon etc. cases were there. Arrests, long pre-trial detention, a death in custody, the press running interference, utter confusion about why exactly those people were locked up and why they were silently released etc.)

  2. I have an update on my log–we got a letter.

  3. Bulent,
    I see what you mean. I’ve often thought about the irony of the fact that were these cases happening in Britain, 90% of the current reporting (including my own) would be illegal under contempt of court, which is similar to the law you mention. I’m surprised it’s not raised more often…

  4. Alex, I think that issue isn’t raised more often at least among lay people because of two reasons applying to different groups. Regular Turks assume the state here does what it wants anyway and the written laws themselves are pretty much the same everywhere (‘dunyanin her yerinde hakaret yasaktir’ etc. is something you hear very often and it generalizes). Foreigners from the West, OTOH, assume that their own countries are free, these issues are settled for freedoms and they can arrive on high horses (in the best sense of the word, there’s also ridiculous conceit but that’s not what I have in mind). We (at least Nihat here sunk time into it with me) have also observed something like this about ‘net censorship/control as it was perceived abroad. When the crowd you talk to and exist among is like that, nuanced arguments formed by going into laws/case laws/precedents an relevant details become impossible to — collectively — formulate and communicate. So you end up with a somewhat vacuous discourse that’s based on folly rather than fact. It is a pity really, since by looking from a non-native frame of reference and experience not only can the contrasts be clearly seen but also similarities (and similar dangers to freedoms) can be noticed.
    (BTW and FWIW, you have my sympathy for that Breivik swipe you received from Zaman/Mahcupyan. A lot of people I know — but not quite the majority by any means — do detest what those publications and the crowd they have working for them are doing and wouldn’t take their word for anything.)

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