The latest Gezi trial on Tuesday was yet another horror show, thanks to the unlawful decisions taken by the panel of judges.
Since the lawyers’ demand of a recusation of the panel of judges was ruled out, they left the courtroom in protest. At that point, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of the Parliament, Sezgin Tanrıkulu, objected the trial to resume without lawyers, and the judges left the courtroom. Tanrıkulu went to the prosecutor, telling him that this act is unlawful. After this point, the prison’s gendarmerie tried to take Tanrıkulu out.
All of the 16 defendants, including Osman Kavala, denied making any statement under the absence of their lawyers. The law is clear that when a defendant is tried with more than 5 years, a court can’t proceed without lawyers. However, the chief judge ignored the law once more and sent the file to the prosecutor for his legal opinion. Next trial is to be held on Feb 18.
As of today, it’s been 821 days since businessman, human right activist and philantropist Osman Kavala is being kept behind bars. Although the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled for his immediate release on Dec. 10, 2019, Kavala is still the only defendant under detention at the Gezi trial.
Sezgin Tanrıkulu, himself a lawyer by training, believes that the panel of judges made their intention clear: “After the first hearings, the panel of judges have been changed. They were specifically choosen for the Gezi trial. At the trial, the judge tried to set up the defendants while their lawyers were absent. The interim decision to send the file to the prosecutor means that he won’t listen to the demands of the defendants, he has made up his mind.”
I asked Tanrıkulu how the Turkish Court can ignore the ECHR decision and what they are trying to achieve.
Sezgin Tanrıkulu thinks the aim is to invalidate the decision, by convicting Kavala of crimes he didn’t comitted: “If they convict Kavala, they can say that the ECHR decision was based on his detention. But now, his status has changed, he is a convict and the decision does not apply. This is what they probably do.”
It’s hard to believe, but remember that a similar trick was pulled on Selahattin Demirtaş, former co-chair of the People's Democratic Party (HDP). The ECHR decided for his immediate release as well but Demirtaş was convicted of another accusation and still is in jail. Kavala, along with Demirtaş, Ahmet Altan and many other jailed politicians, journalists are political hostages.
Human rights lawyer Kerem Altıparmak, ironically tweeted that the officials at the UN International Periodic Review, stated that ECHR decisions are followed and the right to protest is functioning very well. I asked Altıparmak if the ECHR can enact its Kavala decision. They can’t, but Altıparmak believes that the Council of Europe (CoE) and member states have a say. At least they can ask for the decision to be applied.
So the question is whether the Council of Europe (CoE) and member states will stand up. If they will not do that, what is the function of the ECHR and why should other states bother to follow its rules?