Demirtaş to court board: “Don’t sacrifice yourselves for government”
The main trial of jailed politician Selahattin Demirtaş continued at the Ankara 19th Heavy Penal Court. Handing down its judgement on this case, the ECtHR previously gave a ruling of right violation and immediate release.
Behind bars in Edirne Prison since November 2016, Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) former Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş appeared before the judge at the Ankara 19th Heavy Penal Court today (March 16).
While Selahattin Demirtaş attended the hearing at Sincan Prison Campus via the Audio and Visual Information System (SEGBİS), the hearing was also followed by HDP MPs Serpil Kemalbay, Saruhan Oluç, Kemal Pekgöz, Hüseyin Kaçmaz, Züleyha Gülüm and Mahmut Toğrul, HDP Party Assembly member Doğan Erbaş and party executives.
The court board has adjourned the hearing until April 14.
'You act as if ECtHR judgement did not exist'
The hearing of the case where Demirtaş is not arrested pending trial started after the identity check. Taking the floor at the hearing, Demirtaş's attorney Mahsuni Karaman reminded the court board about the judgement of "immediate release" given by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) Grand Chamber on December 22, 2020.
Karaman said, "You read out the files on Van and Ankara at length. You act as if the ECtHR judgement did not exist. It is understood that you will continue the hearing without taking the ECtHR judgement into account. However, I would expect you to append it to records. But you are reading out the summaries of proceedings, as if nothing happened..."
As reported by Mezopotamya Agency (MA), the Presiding Judge said, "You can raise your requests later on" and did not add the related ECtHR judgement on Selahattin Demirtaş to the court minutes.
Defense of Selahattin Demirtaş
Demirtaş, attending the hearing via video conference, made his statement. Referring to the ECtHR judgement of "immediate release", he slammed the court board for refusing to append it to records.
"I would like to congratulate the court for its courage. The ECtHR has also certified your efforts. We were from the HDP. We were the Co-Chairs of a party. We engaged in politics with an open identity. We did not hide ourselves. You also engaged in politics, but you felt the need to hide it," Selahattin Demirtaş said, addressing the court board.
Noting that he had not appeared before the judge in this trial for a year, Demirtaş reminded the court and the audience that the Constitutional Court gave a ruling of right violation in June 2020 in the meantime.
Indicating that the ECtHR also gave "the heaviest ruling of right violation," Selahattin Demirtaş criticized the court board for "trying to continue the hearing as if nothing happened during this period."
"But it is not the case for us. There are severe rulings handed down by national and international courts. For this reason, it is our right to demand that the related ruling be appended to records," said Demirtaş.
'Chief advisor Uçum gave you instructions'
Referring to Mehmet Uçum, the Chief Advisor to President and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Chair Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Demirtaş once again addressed the court board and said, "Mehmet Uçum, who is the chief advisor at the palace, gave you instructions."
Saying that "even the youngest member of the court board had a better knowledge of the law than Uçum," Demirtaş said:
"The man gives you instructions from the palace and you implement it. You could not say, 'Who are you Mehmet Uçum? Just an advisor... And you are giving instructions to us.' Why couldn't you say it? Because Mehmet is at the palace now. I know Mehmet, his knowledge of the law is terrible. You have not even added the ECtHR judgement to the file."
'You bring grave violations to Turkey'
Talking about the failure to implement the ECtHR ruling, Demirtaş said:
"If there is a violation of right, it is expected that the court will eliminate the related violation. But you cannot do it.
"Because your chair Erdoğan said, 'It is beyond me to interfere with the affairs of the judiciary, but we are not going to protect the so-called right of a terrorist like Selahattin Demirtaş, if any'.
"Erdoğan declared that my rights would not be protected. And you also started by declaring it. Thus, I congratulate you. I congratulate you on your obvious attitude of violation. You need to be congratulated because you have added extremely grave violations of rights to Turkey."
Selahattin Demirtaş indicated that "it is the courts that need to protect the rights" of citizens, adding that "but, now, it has become a matter of debate whether the courts have been independent or not."
Recounting the process leading up to the last ruling of right violation given by the ECtHR Grand Chamber as well as a ruling of right violation given by Turkey's Constitutional Court, Demirtaş reiterated that the court board was acting as if these rulings did not exist.
'You engaged in political activities'
Criticizing the court board further, Demirtaş stated:
"In this trial, let's not enforce the Constitution or the Code of Criminal Procedure, but enforce the electoral law. You are openly engaging in political activities so that the parties that you support can come to power. You helped to change the system. You helped to establish the one-man dictatorship. Let's enforce the electoral law so that you tell Turkey about the election win that you give to the AKP and Erdoğan by arresting me.
"You interfered with Turkey's will. You political spokespersons Erdoğan, Bahçeli and Soylu say and you do what is required."
'Judiciary-politics relation will get deeper'
Addressing the court board, Demirtaş said, "Please, enforce the law and be fair. It is not about me" and briefly concluded his remarks as follows:
"Every ruling you hand down will make the judiciary-politics relationship deeper in Turkey. It will increase the ganging up within the state. It will be impossible that the institutions hurling insults in the name of the executive and government will be brought to account.
"I am at peace with all of my identities. I am a Kurd, but not a nationalist. I am sure, but you are nationalists. But, is it how one loves his or her nation? You have contributed to this with your judicial activities.
"There is no state now, institutions do not function. The sub-governor cannot decide on his or her own. The Court of Cassation or the Constitutional Court cannot hand down a judgement. Because the executive has captured everything. At least, you should be fair.
"Don't sacrifice yourselves for the sake of the government. This government will change, it is a 99-percent probability. You will be summoned to the judiciary council to be formed at the Parliament. The next Parliament will ask you about the files brought against us. I swear that I will call you to account for everything you did to me before the law."
Requests of Selahattin Demirtaş
After presenting his statement, Selahattin Demirtaş listed his requests. He demanded that the hearing be adjourned until July 2023, after the general elections in Turkey. He also requested that his file heard by the Ankara 22nd Heavy Penal Court be merged with the file of the main trial heard today. If not, Demirtaş raised a request for recusation.
The court board recessed the hearing afterwards.
Addressing the court board, Demirtaş's attorney Mahsuni Karaman said, "End this hearing now," adding that they will not participate in the judicial proceedings in the event that their requests are not met.
Karaman listed the following demands:
"You have not yet read out the ECtHR judgement. We request that you conclude our requests. Ask the Justice Ministry for the ECtHR judgement and, when the judgement is added to the case file, give a ruling that will ensure that the violation is identified and eliminated by the court."
Next hearing in on April 14
Having another recess, the court board has pronounced its interim judgement and ruled that a letter shall be addressed to the Ankara 22nd Heavy Penal Court so that the indictment of the case filed against Demirtaş at this court can be added to the file. The court has also ruled that the Justice Ministry shall be asked for the Turkish translation of the ECtHR judgement and the request for recusal shall be examined.