Selahattin Demirtaş: Minister brought us handwritten instruction from Öcalan
Symbolic figure from the Palestinian struggle, Leila Khaled, along with German Ambassador Martin Erdmann and other countries’ diplomats who had come to monitor a hearing at which HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş was in attendance were denied admission.
Demirtaş said while mounting his defence that a minister had brought a handwritten instruction in Abdullah Öcalan's handwriting to vote “Yes” prior to the 2010 referendum and that attempts were made through İmralı to block his presidential candidacy.
The second hearing has started in the trial in relation to 31 case reports compiled against HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş, who is in detention in Edirne F-Type Prison.
Ankara Serious Crime Court No 19 had passed an interim decision ordering Selahattin Demirtaş’s attendance in person at the hearing scheduled for 14 February 2018. Prospective observers of Demirtaş’s hearing assembled at the hearing venue.
Among those wishing to monitor the hearing were symbolic figure from the Palestinian struggle, Leila Khaled, along with Ambassador Martin Erdmann and other country’s diplomats. No representative of any foreign mission was admitted to the proceedings held before Ankara Serious Crime Court No 19 in the courtroom inside Sincan Prison. More than thirty members of parliament including HDP Co-Chairs Sezai Temelli and Pervin Buldan monitored the hearing. Demirtaş's wife Başak Demirtaş was also present in the courtroom.
With the German Embassy announcing on its official Twitter account that they had not been admitted to the hearing, it has been learnt that among diplomats who went to monitor the trial were diplomats from the Norwegian, Danish, Canadian, Swiss, British, Netherlands and Irish embassies. Despite the absence of a confidentiality order, many international observers along with the diplomats were seemingly denied admission to the courtroom at the judges’ discretion.
The foreign observers who were unable to monitor Demirtaş’s trial:
1. Sylvie Jan: French Communist Party Member
2. Michel Laurent: French Communist Party Member
3. Bente Knagenhjelm: Norwegian Human Rights Defender
4. Kari Torsteinson: Norwegian Human Rights Defender
5. Margaret Owen: Barrister – Law Society of England and Wales
6. Ali Has: Solicitor – Law Society of England and Wales
7. Leila Khaled: Palestinian National Administration Member
8. HakanTaş: German Left Party Berlin State Parliament Member
9. Søren Søndergaard: Danish Red-Green Alliance MP
10. Stephen Knight: Barrister – Law Society of England and Wales
11. Giacomo Gianolla- Lawyer - Italy
The presiding judge wished to read the indictment at the start of the hearing. However, Demirtaş interjected and indicated that he could not permit this and wished to list his allegations about breaches of the constitution.
Demirtaş, listing his objections to the acceptance of the indictment, showed newspaper headlines prior to the lifting of immunity one by one to the court bench, and continued by saying, “If they had written so many articles saying Demirtaş was an alien, everyone would have believed me to be an alien.”
Clash over procedure with the presiding judge
With Demirtaş about to recall past comments by Erdoğan about the lifting of immunity, the presiding judge intervened and called on him to comment on his procedural objections.
The following clash took place between Demirtaş, who asserted that his comments related to procedure, and the presiding judge:
Demirtaş: If you will not listen to this I will stop here. Let me not make a defence in any way.
Presiding Judge: Do not threaten us.
Demirtaş: These are not threats, these are procedural objections.
Presiding Judge: Do not address other matters.
Demirtaş: If Erdoğan wants immunity to be lifted, I’ll address this. I’ll continue with my comments.
Presiding Judge: Very well, continue.
Demirtaş: It is clear that you have already reached a decision.
Presiding Judge: No, we have not.
Wish for HDP MP to be ejected from the hearing
At this point, the presiding judge wished to eject HDP MP Filiz Kerestecioğlu, who was talking, and said, “Whatever your capacity, you must listen.” Kerestecioğlu replied back. The ejection procedure was not then carried out.
Demirtaş continued his defence as follows: “Prior to the lifting of immunity, perception management was conducted through headlines inserted in the media.” Demirtaş, referring to Article 83/2 of the Constitution, stated that he could not be detained without a parliamentary resolution but, despite this, had been detained for fifteen months. He said, “And the court has not conducted this oversight for fifteen months. You need to protect the will of the people, not Selahattin Demirtaş. Parliament is afraid but the judiciary must be bold. Oversight can only be brought to bear in this way. Laws are issued every day. The attempt is being made to change the Constitution and we, who are the people’s will, are left to observe these things that are going on in a cell. Both we and the judiciary are following them. With the AKP Party Spokesperson saying, ‘We did not detain them in parliament and we did not detain them for long,’ they publicly stated that they are deciding on behalf of the judiciary. History may be thought to consist of repetition but it is not so. The forces of democracy have arrived by growing until today. More than 3,000 HDP people have been detained over one and a half years. Did the HDP decide all of a sudden to commit crime? Did the judiciary all of a sudden pass judgment over the HDP? They needed to criminalise the HDP to make constitutional change and so they detained us in violation of due procedure. Of the 31 case reports, one was served on me. The case in front of you was brought with political motives ever since the investigation stage. However, rather than rectify the breaches of procedure, you as a bench wrote to police directorates in the endeavour to acquire further evidence. I have not until now gained the slightest impression that I will receive a fair trial. Not a single procedure has been conducted regarding evidence favourable to me. You have not as a bench raised your voice against the legal disgrace that has gone on until now. Be I inside or be I on the outside, I will continue to work for the democratisation of this country.”
“We are not this country’s pariahs”
Demirtaş said, “We are this country’s citizens. We are this nation’s children. We are not this country’s pariahs. Justice is the foundation of the state. If it flounders, so does the state. Judges must defend the principle of the supremacy of the law to the end. If you do not, there is trouble. What will happen if you do? Citizens will be inconvenienced. Turkey will not collapse. It will be a democratic country. We will work to our utmost to this end. Those who committed this crime will give account before the judiciary.”
Demirtaş applied to the court for the following:
1- Application to the Constitutional Court for annulment of Temporary Article 20 of the Constitution on the lifting of immunity and the ordering of a stay of proceedings at this stage.
2- If you as the court seriously perceive immunity to have been lifted contrary to the law, remit the case to parliament and demand that immunity be lifted in accordance with due procedure.
3- You can order the case abated stating that the trial cannot be conducted in this manner.
4- If you separate those from among the 31 case reports that are covered by legislative immunity, you can order a stay with regard to the others.
Demirtaş, having listed his applications, said that if the court did not grant these he would object if his parliamentary speeches were quoted while the indictment was being read and cautioned that he would say, “You cannot read this; there is immunity.” The court took a recess in the hearing until 13:45 to adjudicate Demirtaş's applications.
The afternoon portion of the trial
In the afternoon portion of the trial, lawyer Mahsuni Karaman voiced his objections that Demirtaş could not be tried because he had legislative inviolability and immunity.
Prosecutor sets out his opinion on the applications
The prosecutor called for the denial of the application for the constitutional amendment regulating the lifting of immunity to be taken to the Constitutional Court.
Court rules to deny all Demirtaş’s applications
The court asserted that, in the first paragraph of Article 148 of the Constitution, constitutional amendments could only be reviewed in formal terms and review of the norm per se could not be made.
Tense dialogues between Demirtaş and the judge
With the presiding judge saying, “Mr Demirtaş you are going to make a defence case report by case report,” the MPs chimed in with the respectful form of “you”. The lawyers objected to the presiding judge’s outburst, too.
The presiding judge said, “I never use the informal address during trials.”
Demirtaş indicated that he would first make a general defence and then reply case report by case report.
Demirtaş told the presiding judge, “You cannot ask questions about my parliamentary speeches over which charges have been raised.”
The Presiding Judge replied, “That is your preference.”
Demirtaş went on to speak as follows: “In the absence of evidence, severe punishment itself takes the form of evidence. You are not going to look at whether or not I am guilty and pass judgment, you are going to try me over rumours spoken about me. Writing “indictment” at the start of a document does not mean that a document having legal validity can be spoken of. If Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says today that it is impossible for MPs to be tried, there will remain no detained MP the next day. If this is how I am to be released, it is better that I never am.”
“They brought an instruction from Öcalan via a minister”
Demirtaş, continuing his defence following the recess that was taken, made some very important comments with reference to accusations made against him from the ruling party front that they take instructions from İmralı.
Demirtaş said: “He has a special sensitivity about me. It does not just have to do with my party. My party took a boycott decision in the 2010 referendum. Pressure was placed on us to support “Yes”. At that time, there was a solution process my party was not involved in. A process known as the Oslo process in which government and PKK officials spoke face to face. A constitutional proposal was submitted. We objected to two things. We pointed, first, to the absence of a regulation on identity and, second, to the dangers in the regulations on the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors and the senior judiciary. The other items were there to curry favour.
We decided on a boycott. Do you know what they did? They were saying “That lot take instructions from İmralı,” you know. A minister in person brought a letter in Abdullah Öcalan’s handwriting from İmralı. He brought it to me. Why? For us to vote “Yes” in the referendum both in parliament and externally. If they deny this, I will bring witnesses to the stand here. We did not agree. There was also no such thing in the letter. It was in Abdullah Öcalan’s handwriting. I went many times to the island, eight times to İmralı. The letter read:
‘I respect whatever decision our party makes. But, I request that we as a party assess whether the constitutional amendment will facilitate the solution process.’
It does not say either give or deny support. The government brought this calling it İmralı’s instruction. Those who say we take instructions from İmralı brought it in Abdullah Öcalan’s handwriting. We did not agree. We said we would maintain our position of boycott and said if they wanted to come to an understanding, this was the other items. We told them to withdraw the amendments on the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors and language and identity. We did not agree.
“It was he himself who started the political pressure on our party”
Of course, his majesty got cross. He told the ministers, ‘I mean, they have got an instruction from İmralı.’ And they said, ‘We can’t make head nor tail of it.’ The basic crisis with us started then. How dare we oppose my constitutional amendment with them taking the peace process in Oslo forward. It was he himself who started the political pressure on our party.”
“He was unhappy about my candidacy”
Demirtaş, going on to say, “I am explaining why these indictments were drafted with political motives and why there is enmity against me. I will also bring witnesses to the stand,” continued as follows:
“The 2014 presidential election. In 2014, there was also the İmralı solution process. I had absolutely no inclination to stand for president. But, my party decided to field me as a candidate. I felt honoured. What did he do? He applied pressure for me to withdraw my candidacy through İmralı, There are witnesses. The delegation conducting negotiations on behalf of the state said the gentleman (Erdoğan) was very unhappy about my candidacy and wondered why I was both conducting the solution process and standing as a candidate. Are we his slave? This was my reply. We are conducting the solution process to strengthen democratic politics. OK, we are striving to get the PKK to lay down its arms but getting the HDP to abandon politics is not among the goals. Why is he unhappy about us saying we are going to strengthen democratic politics? This is contrary to the spirit of the solution process.
In the middle of the campaign – once more, I can bring witnesses to the stand – this time a person with a position in the senior civil service came and said the gentleman was very unhappy. What help was it to him if I went through to the second round? Was I not thinking at all about the solution process? Because the polls were giving me more than ten per cent and if the other candidate, Ekmelettin İhsanoğlu, got the expected vote, I would go through to the second round. My reply was precisely the following: ‘Tell him we believe in democratic politics. We are also conducting our efforts in a democratic manner. How can he claim that this is contrary to the solution process? I have become a candidate and I will campaign as vigorously as possible until the final day.’
I cannot believe it. Why would none less than the president go to this bother? Why would he bother a politician? He does so and finds lots of things to bother about. They set out to apply pressure on us through İmralı not to contest the 7 June election as a party. The state İmralı delegation said it was contrary to the solution process. They said, ‘Why are 20-25 MPs not enough for you? You will stand as independents.”
Why does the AKP need 400 MPs? It is going to change the constitution on its own. On the subsequent day, the HDP, despite the existence of a Party Assembly resolution, announced that it would contest the election as a party. My party needed to contest the election on 7 June as a party. It did the right thing. The Party Assembly also took this decision immediately after. Because he himself was trying to block this. Those who say that Demirtaş did this and that under Qandil’s and İmralı’s instruction tried to get me to do these things.”
“Pressure was made for ‘Yes’ to be supported”
Demirtaş, saying, “Why am I in detention. Did I flee? Am I in a position to tamper with evidence? No, there was a referendum,” said the following about the 2010 referendum, “His majesty has special sensitivities about me. We decided to boycott the 2010 referendum. But pressure was made for ‘Yes’ to be supported. My party was not involved in what was called the Oslo solution process; there were talks conducted by the PKK and the state. We said, ‘There must be a regulation about language-culture in the constitutional amendment being submitted to referendum and the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors and Senior Judiciary regulation is dangerous, it is not on.’ We decided on a boycott. Those who say, ‘That lot take instructions from Kandil’ brought a letter in Öcalan’s handwriting from İmralı through the intervention of a minister. This was done for us to vote “Yes” in the referendum. If this is denied, I will bring witnesses to the stand here. What was in the letter? Written in the letter was: ‘Your party will decide. Will this amendment facilitate a new solution process?’ They brought this purportedly as Öcalan’s instruction. But we kept up our position of boycott until the last minute. His majesty did not accept it. He said, ‘I mean, they got an instruction from Öcalan, that lot.” How dare we not support his constitutional amendment with the peace process being taken forward in Oslo?”
What are the charges?
The trial pending which Demirtaş is in detention was filed in Diyarbakır and then remanded to Ankara Serious Crime Court No 19 for security reasons. The trial has been filed with Demirtaş’s imprisonment for up to 142 years sought on the charges of “establishing a terrorist organisation, organisational propaganda and praising crime and criminals.” In the past year, 33 trials have been brought against Demirtaş. The trial against Demirtaş being heard today at Ankara Serious Crime Court No 19 is in relation to 31 case reports that had previously been drafted against him and were sent to parliament for his immunity to be lifted.