The road to Silivri, the notorious high security state prison in Istanbul, is a tough one. It’s the remotest district on the European side. The trip can last around 2.5 to 3 hours from the city center. In total 22,781 inmates are held here, most of whom are charged with or accused of ‘terror related’ crimes.
Silivri district is not happy with its ‘image’ associated with the high security prison. In fact, Silivri was a popular summer holiday district for middle class Istanbulites in the 80’s. The center, just a 10-15 minutes drive away from the gruesome prison campus, still bears some traces of a peaceful summer town. Families and elderly sit around in cafes and restaurants, drinking tea or raki, enjoying the park and watch fisherboats when the sun sets in.
At the entrance of the park, there are red, plastic heart shaped symbols, reading:
‘Love in Silivri is something else.’
People are taking pictures for instagram, but for me, it sounds more like a wicked joke. Especially when thinking of inmates just a few kilometers away, who are held on totally false, unlawful charges, like Osman Kavala.
On Tuesday, I went to the forth hearing of the Gezi trial in Silivri, where Kavala is the only imprisoned suspect among 16 civil society activists accused with ‘organizing and financing Gezi protests to overthrow the AKP government’ back in 2013.
Although the European Court of Human Rights ruled for Kavala’s immediate release on Dec. 10 , the Turkish Court announced that ‘a correspondence between the Ministry of Justice and the ECtHR will be held about the finalization of the verdict’. This could mean Kavala might be detained one more year. All requests by the defendants were denied, too. The upcoming hearing will be held on Jan. 28.
This last hearing on Dec. 24, which coincided with Christmas holidays, made it more difficult for foreigners to monitor the case. Still, a group of diplomats, like Consul Generals of Netherlands, Italy and Sweden, member of European Parliament Sergey Lagodinsky, former deputy Consul General of Germany were present. Peter Ericson, Consul General of Sweden in Istanbul brought his two little daughters to Court.
Professionals of law can make a case study on the Gezi case to explain how law is undermined in Turkey by ignoring the ECtHR verdict. But you don’t need to be an expert to understand how troubled this case and the rule of law in Turkey is. To give you an idea what sort of a theater is being held, here are some of the highlights from Osman Kavala's fourth hearing:
- Two ex police officers, both discharged in 2016, were on the witness stand. Neither of them attributed any crime or violent act with the defendants. They knew Kavala from the newspapers, never saw him in person. They got to learn about the protests and press statement organizations on twitter. When asked of protesters equipment such as gas masks, one officer said ‘They had a lot of lemon for sure’. People tried not to laugh, as the Judge got angry even with the slightest murmer in the courtroom.
- Lawyer Turgut Kazan made an important point: The complainants in the case have not been summoned to Court. He personally contacted even the highest authorities and no one had a clue. According to law, the complainants should be informed and summoned.
- The Ministry of Treasury’s request to intervene the cases was accepted, although the defendant lawyers objected: If there is a crime, the prosecutor is here to be the side of the state. By law, you can not intervene in a case in which the government is already a party.
- The Court has also accepted police officer Mevlut Saldogan’s request as an “aggrieved party”. Saldogan was involved in the brutal killing of young Ali Ismail Korkmaz in Eskisehir. He was tried and sentenced for the crime.
In short, the Heavy Penal Court acted in accord with the prosecution. An opposition member of Turkish Parliament whom I met after the hearing, said: ‘It’s very hard for political hostages to get a fair trial, unless the climate changes.’ Indeed, just like HDP’s former Co-Chair Demirtas and journalist Ahmet Altan, it is clear that Osman Kavala is one of the political hostages of President Erdoğan.
These trials are top examples of how rule of law is undermined and how human rights abuses are executed. Kavala is not being released because the President and his MHP partner want to punish and make an example of well known figures and civil rights activitists. They enourmously fear street protests, especially one like Gezi, where so many different groups of people united peacefully to ask for their rights.
They do not want Turkey to prosper, but only assure their own leadership.