Joint Statement on behalf of the International Observers Delegation in Ankara

6th – 7th December 2017
We the undersigned make this declaration to serve as a joint statement on behalf of all members of the international observes delegation that have arrived here in Ankara to observe and objectively report on the trial of the two HDP (Peoples Democratic Party’s) Co-Chair’s Sellahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag.
Mrs. Yuksekdag and Mr. Demirtas were arrested and detained in prison since last November, 2016. Numerous charges have been brought against them relating to alleged “terrorism” activities. The particulars and evidence of the charges they face however emanate from their parliamentary activities and the responsibility they must uphold on behalf of the millions of voters that have elected them as their parliamentary representatives. These include; their speeches in Parliament, speeches at political rally’s, party meetings, press statements and general and legitimate opposition party activities.
The HDP through the rigorous leadership and opposition of Mr. Demirtas and Mrs. Yuksekdag has seen the party gain considerable momentum and significantly increase its votes so that it became the third largest party in Turkey and the second largest opposition party in the Turkish Parliament in 2015. This historical achievement had in turn led to the cancellation of the general election of June 2015 for a re-run in November 2015, which produced a not so dissimilar result.
Against this back drop of political developments new laws were rushed through Parliament that stripped elected members of parliament of their parliamentary immunity and led to the subsequent arrest and detention of 13 HDP members of parliament including the two co-chairs, the trials of whom we are here to observe. Indeed, although the alleged evidence currently presented against Mr. Demirtas and Mrs. Yeksekdag relate to dates between 2011 and 2013 it is telling in our view that the charges and statements are dated within the first four months of 2016.
It is undoubtable that these allegations and cases are politically motivated and designed to silence the growing threat of legitimate opposition. Moreover, political motivation is also evident in the manner in which the legal proceedings have been handled which in our view defy any resemblance of a fair trial.
We, the international observers, protest that the arbitrary manner in which we were denied access to the hearings to be in direct conflict with Turkish constitutional rights, (right to a public hearing) and a blatant portrayal of the lack of judicial integrity and independence of the Court.
Indeed, despite the fact that the presiding Judge ruling in favour for our access into the Court we were denied access by police offices outside the Court house, who had barricaded us with batons and riot shields. The appearance and events leading up to our denied access can only be described as that of a “police state” and leads us to fear and question the fairness of the proceedings let alone integrity impartiality of the Court.
Our denial was based on a last minute requirement that we must be “accredited” which is itself against Turkish constitutional laws and procedure. Our findings have revealed that there is in fact no “accreditation” requirement and or procedure for such accreditation. Indeed when this was challenged in open Court, the Court’s fall back justification for refusing us access was that there were “security” concerns, which we are informed is a term coined whenever any arbitrary decision needs justification.
Our fears for the lack of fairness and judicial independence was heightened when we discovered that the regional prosecutor for Ankara was watching the proceedings in the public gallery. We regard his presence as yet another example of undue pressure being exerted on the presiding judges with a view to attaining a favourable outcome. We were similarly concerned see that members of the ruling party could freely enter the Court without any obstacles.
The conditions within which the hearings are being held are also in our view a great cause for concern. The hearings should have been held within the Ankara regional court, they were moved to the specially built court house within the Sincan High Security Prison Complex, the location of which is remote without any proper public access. The complex is surrounded with tall barbedwired gates, and armed riot police. The public is under constant intimidation, with the threat of water cannons and constant video recording by police offices.
The basic principles of the rule of law require that it is not for the ruling elite or political institutions that change within the conjectural dynamics of a country that should dictate what is an offence or not but rather that this is set within statutes and constitutions. Accordingly, whilst an alleged act cannot be regarded as a crime without there being statutory backing, it is equally unacceptable that alleged offences, which are in fact guaranteed as rights and freedoms under the constitution cannot be regarded as evidence of membership to a “terror” or “illegal” organisation.
We as the international observes delegation have been denied the right to watch observe the hearings that have taken place over the past two days. Justice cannot be done behind closed doors. It must also be seen to be done. We feel therefore that the conditions within which the hearings were conducted, our arbitrary denial of access to the hearings, and general disregard to basic legal principles and norms removes these proceedings from the remit of fairness and places them firmly within the framework of politically motivated show trials, without any regard for the rule of law. In the midst of a broken judicial system, we are deeply concerned that the ability of the co-chairs being able to have fair trial is simply not possible under these conditions.
Steve Sweeney – Journalist
Corinne Morel Darleux – National Executive Secretary/Regional Deputy – Left Party, France
Jean-Christophe Sellin – Regional Deputy – Left Party, France
Jean-Paul Lecoq – MP French Communist Party
Sylvie Jean – Member of French Communist Party
Michel Laurent – Member of French Communist Party
Arturo Scotto – MP – Progress and Democratic Movement
Alessio Arconzo – Adviser to Progress and Democratic Movement
Tommaso Sasso – Representative of Leftist Youth of Progress and Democratic Movement Progress and Democratic Movement
Yilmaz Kerimo – MP Swedish Social Democrat Party/PES
Eva-Lena Jansson – MP Swedish Social Democrat Party/PES
Mari Eifring – Deputy MP Norwegian Red Party
OBE Margaret Owen – Lawyer, Director at Widows for Peace through Democracy
Ali Has – Solicitor-Advocate, Law Society of England and Wales / Member of the Law Society’s International Human Rights Group
Hakan Taş – MP – German Left Party, Die Linke
Fabio Amato – Adviser to GUE/NGL In European Parliament
Eleonora Forenza – MEP GUE/NGL In European Parliament
Paul Maskey – MP Sinn Fein
OBE Jennette Arnold – London Assembly, Labour Party Member – UK/PES
Unmesh Desai – London Assembly, Labour Party Member – UK/PES
Ali Gul Ozbek – Labour Party Member UK
Dennis McNulty – GMB Union Representative
Jonas Sjöstedt – President of the Swedish Left Party
Yasmine Posio Nilsson – MP Swedish Left Party
Lord Maurice Glassman – House of Lords UK
Lord David Watts – House of Lords UK
Afroditi Stampouli – MP Syriza (Greece)
Turid Thomassen – Member of Solidarity with Kurdistan Norway
Beth Hart – Member of Solidarity with Kurdistan