A Turkish court on Jan. 14 sentenced Mehmet Emin Aktar, former head of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, to six years and three months in prison on the grounds that he participated in activities organized by the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) in 2018 -- an umbrella organization for Kurdish political movement.
The DTK had once received widespread political support, including from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). However, the government criminalized it once the peace process with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) collapsed, and now accuses the umbrella group of being a front for the PKK.
Aktar was accused of “being a member of a terror group” and “conducting propaganda on behalf of a terror group.”
During the final hearing of the case at the Diyarbakır 4th Heavy Penal Court, lawyers said that Aktar's speeches and e-mails included in the indictment cannot represent evidence of criminal acts, let alone any connection to “terrorism,” as “DTK is legal organization.” The umbrella group still functions and has not been closed down or proscribed by a court order.
Lawyers said that Aktar held the relevant speeches and wrote the relevant e-mails due to his job as a lawyer and his former position as the Diyarbakır Bar Association head.
Lawyers also pointed out that Aktar had been wiretapped and monitored in an illegal way and evidence collected through such means could have no official validity.
The court found Aktar guilty on the charge of “being a member of a terror group,” while acquitted him on the charge of “conducting propaganda on behalf of a terror group.”
Aktar released a statement on Twitter with regards to the conviction, sharing a document which showed former Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek inviting the DTK officials to the Parliamentary Constitution Reconciliation Commission in 2012, as part of works to draft the new Constitution.
“Normal behaviors in ordinary periods are today a reason to punish. Look from where the DTK received an invitation in those periods,” Aktar wrote.
Olağan dönemlerdeki normal davranışlar bugün cezalandırma gerekçesi. Bakın aynı dönem DTK nerelerden davet almış. pic.twitter.com/Hl7iysHSP6— Mehmet Emin Aktar (@MehmetEminAktar) January 14, 2021
Aktar also commented on the conviction to Gazete Duvar, saying: “I do not expect of them to thank me for what I said during democratic periods. Prisons are also the lands of the homeland. If needs be, I will serve my time.”