The KCK trial: “Defendants without Lawyers”

Since the 21st hearing of the trial, took place on April 19, 2011, two additional hearings have taken place where the lawyers of the suspects were, as a way of protest, not present at the court proceedings. Outside the Court, the lawyers once again announced their demands: that the court recognize the defendant’s right to a defense in their native language (Kurdish,, that a this court’s competence is reviewed in terms of handling of the case, and finally that all defendants in this case are to stand trial simultaneously.

During the last hearing on the 10th of May, 2011, the President of the Court, Menderes Yilmaz, has declared that the suspects may have to carry out their own defense without a lawyer, if necessary. The suspects refused to accept lawyers appointed by the Court, because they are already represented in their affairs by their current lawyers. Since the lawyers were absent as a result of their protest, the Judge has decided to postpone the case. The trial shall continue on the 2nd of August 2011, if necessary without lawyers. In a reaction, the defendants announced the wish not to appear for the hearing on that day. Ten Kurdish politicians, who are in pre-trial detention in the D Type prison in Diyarbakir, have started a hunger strike for an indefinite period.

The 152 defendants, among whom are (former) mayors, local politicians, human rights activists and lawyers, are accused of being members of the the Union of Communities in Kurdistan (known as KCK with its Kurdish acronyms), an organization that is said to be the urban wing of the PKK. As such, the defendants are accused of ‘terrorist activities’, of ‘aiding and abetting a terrorist organization’, of ‘aiming to destroy the unity and integrity of the state’ or of being a ‘member or leading member of a terrorist organization’. By the time of writing this article, 104 people in the KCK trial in Diyarbakir have been in pre-trial detention for almost 2 years.

According to the information provided by the BDP, (the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party), shortly after the elections for city council in 2009 - where they won in many Kurdish cities in Turkey - at least 2200 people have been arrested and accused of KCK membership. More than 1500 people are still in prison. Therefore, the trial is also considered to be an attempt to suppress the legally organized political movement of the Kurdish people in Turkey through the judicial system.