The trial of Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart will commence in ten day’s time. Accused of “abusing trust” and “helping an armed terrorist organisation without being a member”, if found guilty he could go to prison for twenty-nine years.
As the dozen staff members from Cumhuriyet newspaper wait out the final days of their pre-trial detention, a period that for most has lasted some nine months and represents a complete violation of European law, Turkey itself is gripped by a new wave of opposition to the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Last weekend the widespread and peaceful protest movement led by Kemal Kilicdaroglu, March for Justice culminated in a gathering of hundred of thousands of citizens in Istanbul. The imprisoned staff from Cumhuriyet were greatly moved and encouraged for the challenge that lies before them in court.
Musa is quoted as saying:
“We watched the Justice March and the huge, joyous Maltepe Rally held subsequently with emotion in our cell. We saw people at this rally from all walks who are longing for justice. I hope that those governing this country will correctly read the heartfelt messages from this meeting and take the necessary action without delay. They must accept that those who are longing for justice are more numerous than can be captured on newspaper pages and television screens. Growers who have to sell the apricots in their possession for three kurush want justice, as do students who are left in astonishment each year as the questions are stolen. Against such a stark backdrop, I think we must immediately dispense with superficial claims about one rally beating another. Our first hearing will be held at Çağlayan on 24 July. I see myself among the millions who have lost their trust in justice, but we will stand tall that day in the courtroom and defend ourselves. Regardless of how the court rules, I have no doubt that we will be acquitted in the consciences of the millions.”
The Franco-German television channel Arte screened a documentary this week – “Goodbye, Turkey” – featuring exiled journalist Can Dündar and interviews with a range of figures who have either left the country after suffering victimisation or are in the midst of persecution by Erdoğan’s government. It includes a contribution from Musa’s wife Sevinç and an attempt by an undercover crew to film inside the Silivri prison. She describes a marked deterioration in conditions within for Musa and his colleagues, even before the authorities knew that foreign film-makers where in the country. The program is available for viewing with English subtitles on their website for a limited time.
CRNI notes also the detention of Amnesty International‘s leadership in Turkey, Director Idil Eser and Chair Taner Kılıç. These arrests, like all that have occurred in the country over the last twelve months, are an affront to free speech, democracy and human rights. We send our support to Musa Kart, his family, colleagues and all within Turkey working peaceably and lawfully against authoritarianism and intolerance.
Executive Director Dr. Robert Russell said:
“I express my deepest support to Amnesty International’s brave leaders of their remaining staff in Turkey who have put their lives on the line to bring the stories of this rogue regime and its intolerable assault on basic human rights to the world’s attention. Now that the president of the United States seems to be hailing and congratulating some of the world’s worst tyrants, it would seem that the USA is no longer a champion of democracy and free speech in the world. His short and inept presidency has already done a generation’s worth of harm to democracy’s body politic. Donald Trump questions whether Western values can survive while he undermines and attacks those same values. I have to wonder aloud where those of us working in defence of democratic values will land in a search for new leadership.”