EMEP Chairwoman Selma Gürkan penalized for her Afrin Operation critics

EMEP Chairwoman Selma Gürkan was sentenced on the count of ‘terrorist organization propaganda’ for her critics on the Afrin operation.

Eylem NAZLIER
İstanbul

In a case brought for the speech she made in front of the judicial complex at the hearing of EMEP members who had been detained for handing out “No to war” leaflets, Labour Party (EMEP) Chairwoman Selma Gürkan was sentenced to ten months’ imprisonment and the penalty was converted into a 6,000 lira fine. Gürkan said, “This penalty is a penalty imposed on the call for peace, a penalty imposed on the right to engage in politics and a penalty imposed on freedom of expression” and she stressed that she would not stop expressing her thoughts.

Gürkan made a speech about the Afrin operation in front of the judicial complex at the first hearing of the trial in which Neslihan Karyemez and Bilal Karaman were detained for handing out EMEP “No to war” leaflets in Istanbul. The ruling hearing of the trial brought against Gürkan for this speech on the charge of “terrorist organization propaganda” was held at Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 26.

At the hearing at which Gürkan was in attendance, her lawyers Devrim Avcı, Yıldız İmrek, Songül Beydilli, Kamil Tekin Sürek, Leyla Han Tüzel, Gamze Gökoğlu, Semir Karataş, Mustafa Söğütlü, Hüseyin Boğatekin and İlknur Alcan were present.

Among those monitoring the hearing were People’s Houses Chair Nuri Günay, EMEP Deputy Chairs Levent Tüzel and Nuray Sancar, Yavuz Okçuoğlu from the Social Democracy Foundation and Begali Kurnaz, administrative board member of the Human Rights Association.

The hearing started with a repetition of the prosecution’s recommendations on the merits.

“OUR RIGHT TO ENGAGE IN POLITICS IS BEING IMPEDED THROUGH THIS TRIAL”

Making a statement contesting the recommendation, Selma Gürkan said, “Initially, voicing criticism against the Afrin operation by way of our party’s opinions is the exercising of our right to conduct politics. The right to engage in politics is essentially being prosecuted in this trial. With the right to engage in politics enshrined in the Constitution, this trial that has been started and is continuing is a violation of the Constitution, I wish to note this. Also, freedom of thought and expression is still under constitutional and statutory safeguard.”

Recalling the comment by organized crime leader Sedat Peker aimed at the peace declaration signatory academics, “We’ll spill their blood in streams. We’ll shower in their blood,” she continued:

“Despite being a clear call to threat and violence and making academics into a target, it is safeguarded to the extent of being treated as freedom of speech. Another example: Presidential Communications Chair Fahrettin Altun even defended the act of punching Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in the attempted lynching in Çubuk saying, ‘The right of protest is under constitutional safeguard’ and treated it as belonging to the democratic plane. Also, attempted lynchings of our Kurdish citizens have been considered to be ‘protests by sensitive citizens.’ We have witnessed the making of similar assessments countless times by members of the ruling party. Now we are being prosecuted for finding a foreign policy decision of the government to be wrong and criticizing it. I imagine that in no democratic precedent are dual standards acceptable in the implementing of political rights and the freedom of thought and expression. If we as a political party are unable to express our opinions and criticise government policies, we probably cannot speak of democracy and freedom.”

Gürkan summed up by saying, “I ask for the immediate ending of this trial that should actually never have been initiated with my acquittal, taking account also of the reasons my lawyers will submit.”

OBJECTION OF UNCONSTITUTIONALITY DISMISSED

The lawyers then made statements contesting the recommendation. Saying it was contrary to Article 7/2 of law number 3713 and in short Articles 1, 10, 25, 26, 28 and 38 of the Constitution, Yıldız İmrek, Attorney-at-Law, said, “We have an objection of unconstitutionality. We call for the case to be remitted to the Constitutional Court.”

The application was dismissed on the grounds of non-fulfilment of the conditions.

“THE RECOMMENDATION AMOUNTS TO AN IMPUTING OF INTENTIONS ON THE PART OF THE PROSECUTOR”

In turn, Devrim Avcı, Attorney-at-Law, said, “A rote application has been made for a penalty contrary to the law and statute. Your use of abstract expressions is contrary to criminal trial principles. The recommendation amounts to an imputing of intentions on the part of the prosecutor. My client’s right to conduct politics is being obstructed through this trial. We ask for a ruling to be passed acquitting my client.”

For his part, Mustafa Söğütlü, Attorney-at-Law, spoke as follows:

“It is impossible to concur with the prosecutor’s recommendation. I will start by criticizing the recommendation. The recommendation has become the ruling party’s bulletin. The recommendation should be independent. Prosecution and judges, you are bound by the Constitutional Court. My client’s freedom of expression is being impeded. Political parties’ activities are safeguarded. Impeding party activities amounts to a crime. It is natural for the chairs of political parties to make statements. My client made a speech in the language of peace in opposition to the Afrin operation. Defending peace cannot be deemed a crime under any modern law.”

JAIL SENTENCE CONVERTED TO FINE

A one-year jail sentence was handed down in the judgment following the taking of a recess. In consideration of Gürkan’s social relations and conduct in the course of the proceedings, it was reduced to ten months and converted to a 6,000-lira administrative fine.

GÜRKAN: THIS PENALTY WAS IMPOSED ON THE CALL FOR PEACE AND THE RIGHT TO ENGAGE IN POLITICS

Speaking to Evrensel following the ruling, Gürkan said, “This penalty is a penalty imposed on the call for peace, a penalty imposed on the right to engage in politics and a penalty imposed on freedom of expression. It is a clear pointer to the gradual democratic recession in the country. This ruling will never be able to deflect us from either conducting politics or voicing our thought and expression.”

EMEP: CALL FOR PEACE PUNISHED

The statement made by the Labour Party (EMEP) about the penalty handed down to Chairwoman Selma Gürkan said, “There was a wish to impede the right for a political party to engage in politics and to punish the call for peace.”

The statement said, noting that EMEP Chairwoman Selma Gürkan had made a brief speech on 27.02.2018 in front of the Istanbul Judicial Complex prior to the trial in which party members were being prosecuted for handing out the leaflet stating “No to the Afrin Operation. We want peace not war” and had criticized the government’s policies of war and voiced the call for peace, “A trial was initiated against Selma Gürkan for this speech on the charge of making terrorist organization propaganda. A ten-month jail sentence was handed down at the 24.04.2019 hearing at the conclusion of the trial conducted by Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 26 and the jail sentence in question was converted to a fine. We will lodge our objection to the ensuing sentence with Istanbul Regional Court of Justice and will appeal it.”

“WISH TO IMPEDE A POLITICAL PARTY’S RIGHT TO ENGAGE IN POLITICS”

The statement, stressing that the case had no legal basis and the prosecution indictment had been compiled entirely with political arguments and resembling a government declaration, commented as follows: “Our Chairwoman Gürkan’s speech was construed as an attempt to disrupt the policies of war and the creation of a charge through imputing intention was attempted. Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 26, for its part, undersigned a legal travesty in passing sentence in the case compiled under this indictment. By means of this sentence imposed on our General Chair there was basically a wish to impede a political party’s right to engage in politics and the call for peace was punished. With the general chair of a political party punished for a speech with no violent content, organized crime bosses who openly speak of killing people, talk of bathing in academics’ blood and continue with threat-laden pronouncements following this rhetoric remain at large within society.”

“THERE IS A WISH TO TAKE SOCIAL POLARIZATION TO EXTREME LEVELS”

Noting that hate speech had continued unabated since the 31 March elections and the seeds of rancour and enmity were being sown by the political rulers themselves, the statement said, “Furthermore, the chair of a political party, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, suffered an attempted lynching in Ankara, while the perpetrators were released virtually as heroes. In these days we are living through, such punishments are not sufficed with and there is a wish to take social polarization to extreme levels by singling people out.”

“WE WILL NOT ABANDON OUR FIGHT FOR JUSTICE, PEACE AND FREEDOM.”

Noting that even equating opposition to policies of war by itself with being a “terrorist” drove home the point the country has reached, the statement noted, “The need of Turkey’s peoples and this country’s workers and wage earners is peace, freedom and democracy. With its persistence in punishing the call for peace, the position the judiciary is taking, conversely, will go down as a black mark in history. We thus state that we do not accept the penalty imposed on our party’s Chairwoman Selma Gürkan and attribute no meaning or value to it legally. We will not abandon our fight for justice, peace and freedom.”

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Syrian refugee worker in Turkey: I’ve learnt workers have no nation

​​​​​​​ Saying, “I’ve been living in Turkey for about six years. I’ve learnt about both labour and exploitation here,” a Syrian worker calls for workers’ unity.

A Syrian refugee worker

I’m a 22-year-old Syrian refugee textile worker in Çağlayan. Fighting IS in Syria while aged sixteen, I fled Syria and came to Turkey at seventeen so as not to be an Assad soldier.

They don’t greatly like the Syrians who have fled here but I’m not sorry I fled. People in Turkey have told me for years that I should be sorry. They called me a traitor and said those who stab their own country in the back will do the same to them and then they got us to work for a pittance. Working for a pittance, they said their jobs were being grabbed from them. They were always packed full of malice. The bosses wanted to employ people even more cheaply and we knew we weren’t getting the same rate of pay as the workers working here. Then we learnt to demand the same pay for putting in the same work as Turks and Kurds.

There were Syrians who were employed even more cheaply before me in Çağlayan. They gave thirty lira a week. If we even gave that to a kid they wouldn’t do the same work. With the boss at the workshop not paying the money that was due we went and started work at another workshop the following week. Turks and Kurds, seeing there were no jobs like before in textiles, found socially insured jobs instead of working with time out of known or unknown duration and without insurance. But we’re just managing to get our IDs for the first time. That is, we can get them if we’ve got money. In the end, the workshops had to give us the money we deserved because they couldn’t find decent machinists, overedgers and errand runners to do the work. They saw they couldn’t trick us like they used to if we didn’t get the pay we deserved.

Life was easier for us in Syria before the war. With it being enough if one person in a house worked to cover health, education, fare, rent and shopping costs, here my two big brothers, I and my younger brother work to take care of our family. We both send something back home and spend on our own needs to live here. If we don’t work for a month we borrow and the following month we have to do whatever work is available.

I LEARNT ABOUT THE MAY DAY HERE

I’ve been living in Turkey for about six years. I’ve learnt about both labour and exploitation here.

The exploiters have always been the bosses. Those who put in the labour, though, have been the workers and working people. I also learnt here that there is a May Day, world workers’ festival among working people. A full two years ago. But I have somehow been unable to go. It’s always coincided with times when work is in full swing at the workshop. Then, given it’s a festival, I wondered why we worked on the workers’ festival while Muslims don’t work on all religious holidays. I then learnt that both working without social insurance and working for more than eight hours was a bad thing.

The bosses don’t give what our labour’s worth, but I still think we need to be in unity against the bosses who employ us cheaply so that they will. But this time not just with Syrians, there must be unity among Turks, Arabs, Kurds, Mongols, Afghans and Turkmen, because there is no one nation here. Workers have no nation, either. So, we must be in unity.

I found out about the papers and posters handed out for 1 May by getting my friends who are literate in Turkish to read them. It is actually very hard to find out about this. We can’t speak the same language as workers of other nationalities. So, do they know? I’ve no idea. We don’t know what our rights are and what we should ask for because we fled the country from war and those coming from other countries were getting away from unemployment. We’re afraid that if we ask for our rights, the bosses and their cronies will say get out of the country, then. I have also learnt here about the difficulty of asking for rights in a country where you aren’t a citizen. We all live together. They say having social insurance is a guarantee but even Turks cannot find insured work in textiles. There’s no regular work in the workshops and nobody works regularly. We can only be happy at times when there’s work. What we fear most is the future. We’re afraid of dying of poverty and hunger in this country we have made our home having fled war and unemployment. There’s no guarantee that war won’t break out in this country, either, in which there is no democracy even in elections.

THERE ARE THOSE WHO ARE SEEKING RIGHTS FOR ALL

When one of my friends said we need to call for a human existence here, I used to say how’s that to be, the local people here don’t have a human existence so how can we. But there are also those here who do things for the peoples here and call for work and rights for everyone. There are even those who write books telling us about war, poverty and exploitation. I learnt that living is a right in this country. This right belongs to all nationalities. It is our right to live in a place where there is no war, nobody is exploited and we realize we are human. I think we need to be in unity and to be strong for this. I am also happy to be thinking these things because it tells me I need to be human.

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President Erdoğan’s call for a ‘Turkey alliance’ and the attack on CHP Leader Kılıçdaroğlu

With the proclamation of a ‘Turkey alliance’, Erdoğan wants to force the opposition to unite around his policies in such matters as the Kurdish problem.

Not long after President Erdoğan’s comment, “In issues pertaining to our country’s survival, we must put our political views and differences to one side and act in a unity of 82 million as a ‘Turkey Alliance,’” CHP Chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was attacked while attending the funeral in Ankara’s Çubuk of professional private Yener Kırıkçı who had lost his life in the clash in Hakkari. It suffices to watch the footage of the attack to realize that the assault was not the work of people who had chanced together but an organized attempted lynching was involved.

The police, who show not the slightest hesitation over attacking the ‘Peace Mothers’ and dragging them along the ground while clubbing them, standing and watching the assault at a ceremony at which the General Director of Police, the Ankara Police Chief, Minister of Defence and Chief of the General Staff were present can surely not be accounted for as a security lapse.

There is also no need to engage in deep analysis to be able to say that those who staged this attack drew succour from the antagonistic, terrorizing hate speech of ruling party spokespeople, not least President Erdoğan, towards their opponents. President Erdoğan’s comments on the electoral stump that, “Votes that go to the CHP will go to terrorist organizations” and talk of an “Alliance of degradation” that he employed to portray the “Nation Alliance” as a nefarious alliance is fresh in memories. On the other hand, just think that an Interior Minister, whose duty is to preserve society’s peace and provide security, proclaims the main opposition party to be a “terrorist collaborator” and can openly speak of instructing people from the CHP not be admitted to “funerals of the fallen.” It should thus come as no surprise that there are those who feel a state of affairs in which even bloody-handed organized crime bosses can act as ruling party spokesmen and threaten society imposes a duty on them.

Well, who and what calculations may lie behind this attack?

To find the answer to this question, we first need to look at President Erdoğan’s call for a “Turkey alliance” and the comment, “Our alliance is the People’s one” ensuing in reaction from the People’s Alliance’s minor partner Bahçeli.

The AKP, having lost a good number of metropolitan cities most notably Istanbul and Ankara, has clearly emerged wounded from the 31 March local elections and the election results have made the AKP-Erdoğan rule all the more dependant on the MHP. Well, Erdoğan’s comments cannot be thought of independently of these results. With the proclamation of a “Turkey alliance,” Erdoğan wants to force the opposition to unite around his policies in such matters as the Kurdish problem (intervention against the Syrian Kurds) which he sees as an issue of survival and the economic crisis. This endeavour also for sure involves an attempt to reduce the dependence of his own rule on the MHP.

Here there is a need to ask Erdoğan, who is calling on the 82 million to unite:

Where are the workers, whose strikes you have until now boasted of banning and whose severance pay you have set your sights on, in this alliance?

Where in this alliance are the millions who vote for the HDP, whose administrators you have accused of “terrorism” at every opportunity for defending a peaceful, democratic solution to the Kurdish problem in place of war and violence, and where are the Peace Mothers who come under attack for trying to make their voices heard about their hunger striking children?

In this alliance, where are the retirement age victims, the villagers engaged in agriculture and husbandry who have now come to the verge of extinction thanks to the policies of external dependence you have imposed and the public workers whose job security you announce you will eliminate?

I could keep churning out these questions, but even this many suffices to see/show this call for a “Turkey alliance” is a call for unity around the single-man regime and this regime’s anti-labour and anti-democracy policies. So, Erdoğan’s call is not, as is imagined, a sign of softening in the policies being implemented but the endeavour to legitimize his own rule among wider sections of society.

What about Bahçeli?

It would not be wrong to say that Bahçeli and his party came out of the 31 March elections as the winning side of the “People’s Alliance,” given that the MHP as it stands today both enjoys all the blessings of power and is able to exempt itself from criticism aimed at the ruling body. Also, the MHP’s victory in many places where the AKP and MHP came head to head in the local elections points to a swing in the vote from the AKP to the MHP. This clearly places the MHP in a critical position in terms of the continuation of Erdoğan’s rule and this situation is of immense satisfaction to Bahçeli.

At this very point, there is a need to turn and look at what Bahçeli said about the attack on Kılıçdaroğlu. Bahçeli’s accusatory remark aimed at assault victim Kılıçdaroğlu, “What have you done Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to make that man go as far as swinging a punch?” takes us a step closer to finding the answer to the question, “Who and what calculations lie behind this attack?”

Bahçeli is opposing Erdoğan’s call for an open-ended “Turkey alliance” and wants the People’s Alliance, constructed on polices of heightening tensions and polarizing society, to continue in its current form. Bahçeli is known to have a considerable number of supporters for this not just from his own party, but also from within the AKP.

As a result, Erdoğan’s call for a “Turkey alliance” and Bahçeli’s insistence on the People’s Alliance augurs polemics between the partners of the new regime as to how the single-man regime will and should continue after 31 March. However, it is sufficient to look at the attack staged on Kılıçdaroğlu to see that a result favourable to the forces of labour and democracy will not emerge from such polemics/clashes whose aim is to shore up the single-man regime.

For a democratic country and a human existence, no other exit route stands before the forces of labour and democracy apart from stepping up the trend of self-confidence and struggle that emerged among wide circles of society in the 31 March elections in opposition to the single-man regime.

(Translated by Tim Drayton)

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Cumhuriyet staffs talked before returning to jail: May things go well for us on the inside and you on the outside

8 Cumhuriyet staffs set to go back to jail said, “May things go well for us on the inside and you on the outside.”

Eylem NAZLIER
İstanbul

Those sentenced to less than five years in the Cumhuriyet newspaper trial and whose sentences have been upheld by the appeal court are now expected to go to jail. The newspaper’s former staffers Musa Kart, Kadri Gürsel, Güray Öz, Hakan Kara, Önder Çelik, Emre İper, Bülent Utku and Mustafa Kemal Güngör will go to jail. Today, the journalists made statements accompanied by their lawyers at the İstanbul Bar Association.

With the absence of Bülent Utku and Kadri Gürsel, from among the soon-to-be-jailed attending the conference were Musa Kart, Güray Öz, Hakan Kara, Emre İper, Önder Çelik and Mustafa Kemal Güngör and their lawyers Duygu Yarsuvat, Bahri Belen, Fikret İlkiz, Tora Pekin and Abbas Yalçın along with Akın Atalay, Murat Sabuncu, Aydın Engin and Orhan Erinç, who were sentenced to more than five years and have applied to the Court of Cassation. Turkish Journalists’ Association Chair Turgay Olcayto, Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions affiliated Press Union Chair Faruk Eren, Evrensel newspaper Editor-in-Chief Fatih Polat, RSF Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu and Turkish Labour Party MP Barış Atay also attended the conference.

MUSA KART: I EXPECT AN APOLOGY

The newspaper’s former cartoonist Musa Kart was the first to address the conference. Saying that he had been a cartoonist for forty years, Kart said, “In spite of everything, I have felt no doubt about the correctness of my choice. I now expect an apology. By now everyone knows that they jailed us to create a climate of fear in the country. My colleagues rebutted the charges against us in the historic defences they made before the first-instance court. Yes, how sad that this period will be remembered for its lack of hearings and defences. Let’s give it its due. If being tried without hearing and defence is not a comedy, what is? We at Cumhuriyet are people who believe in democracy, secularism, the rule of law and living together. Heads held high, I will go back to jail together with my colleagues who hold their professional integrity above all else. I embrace everyone who has stood at our sides from the outset.”

“THE LAW OF THE SUPREME WAS DEFENDED”

For his part, former Cumhuriyet newspaper employee Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Attorney-at-Law, said of the Cumhuriyet trial, “It was a trial that murdered the law,” and added, “I was prosecuted in this trial as a lawyer of 34 years’ standing. We are up against a ruling that murders the law. Those in power had a sentence that they made particular recourse to in the 2010 constitutional referendum: ‘We will bring about the supremacy of the law and not of the Supreme.’ But here the law of the supreme was defended. This is a political, not legal, trial. It intimidates the rest of the press and journalists and other opposition segments of society. It says let nobody write and nobody criticize. If this is done, the judiciary immediately moves into action. The indictment and court judgment would have it that we knowingly and willingly aided a terrorist organization without being a member. And also three organizations at the same time. How did we commit this crime? With the news that appeared in Cumhuriyet as a whole. Those who are trying us and are having us tried to know full well that we committed no such crime. But look at how odd and portentous it is when those on trial are we who for forty years warned of the “FETO” truth.”

“MAY THINGS GO WELL FOR US ON THE INSIDE AND YOU ON THE OUTSIDE”

Saying that press freedom had been destroyed with these punishments, Güngör continued, “Trust me, I am lost for words in the face of a judgment that murders the law. I grieve for my poor and beautiful country. The freedom of the press and expression was destroyed from start to finish in this trial. The principle of personal liability in criminal law has been destroyed. Our going to prison will not just be contrary to the law, but contrary to the Constitution and statute. The first-instance court found the Cumhuriyet newspaper staffers guilty. The Regional Court of Justice upheld our convictions. Our application for appeal was dismissed in a two-sentence judgment. The state will say ‘sorry’ to us years later. Is this what justice is about? Speedy trials are supposed of the essence and the Court of Cassation is supposedly heavily burdened with cases. What is to come of our burden, the burden of those who have been robbed of their lives? We noted all these things in our statement of appeal. But the legal system paid us no heed. May things go well for us on the inside and you on the outside. Farewell!”

“A PRAISEWORTHY PICTURE OF SOLIDARITY HAS NOT SUCCEEDED IN EMERGING AT MY PAPER”

Following the speeches, the journalists fielded questions from the press. To the question, “Cumhuriyet’s management has changed. Are you still getting support?” Musa Kart replied as follows, “It is not playing a very positive role in reflecting what is going on in the media. I do not think our trial is reflected in the terms that it warrants. I would also like to say with reference to our paper that it must be accepted that the current newspaper management also has a degree of responsibility. I think it worth saying that a praiseworthy picture of solidarity has not succeeded in emerging.”

“EXECUTION WILL HAPPEN ANY TIME”

Tora Pekin, Attorney-at-Law, gave information about the trial process. Saying, “In view of the latest developments that took place in the Cumhuriyet newspaper trial last week, we felt the need to hold such a meeting,” Pekin said, “As you know, the appeal court undertook its procedures to finalize the judgment. We have thus now come to the execution stage of the prison sentences. Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 27 will conduct its own correspondence and the commencement of execution will happen any time once the judgment has been sent to the executory public prosecutor’s office. This means that eight of our fourteen colleagues who have been sentenced, Güray Öz, Musa Kart, Hakan Kara, Önder Çelik, Kadri Gürsel, Bülent Utku, Mustafa Kemal Güngör and Emre İper, will go back to jail.”

Pekin noted, “Looking at the judgment, we see that the proof of guilt is merely the reports we made, the headlines we ran and a few articles by columnists. On the basis of these publications, we have been adjudged to have aided three terrorist organizations at the same time without being a member. Six of the sentences handed down out of fury with independent journalism and true reporting departed from the lower limits and sentences of from 3 years and 9 months to 8 years one month and 15 days were imposed. There is no precedent for this. We objected to this judgement in a 200-page statement. Penal Chamber No 3 of Istanbul Regional Court did not even reply to the request for a hearing. It dismissed our objections without a single sentence citing any grounds.”

Also briefly touching on Article 220/7 of the Turkish Penal Law, Pekin commented, “The European Court of Human Rights stresses that this article is vague and for this reason has no statutory character. The Venice Commission has emphasized that this article should be rescinded in full and, if not, should at least not be applied to the freedom of expression and freedoms of assembly and protest. However, unfortunately, what is written and drawn by journalists who criticize the political rulers or even by citizens who enter a few lines on social media continues to be considered a crime in this respect by our prosecutors and judiciary. We point once more to the need for Article 220 of the penal code to be reworked legally.”

“JOURNALISM IS NOT A CRIME”

Pekin finally said the following: “Even if we are here to give a reminder of the Cumhuriyet trial, what is really being told is the story of press freedom in Turkey. The IPI put the number of detained journalists at 155 in February. Every day, we witness a journalist being arrested, a search being conducted at their home and their being accused of organization membership or aiding an organization. According to the most recent Reporters without Borders (RSF) report, we are anchored in 157th position in the world press freedom league table. 95% of the media is under the ruling party’s control. The Cumhuriyet trial and the return to the jail of our colleagues for a non-existent crime is just an important detail in this horrific picture. While, in fact, free news, free information and free comment are indispensable for a democratic society. We thus call on the public to stand up for journalism and journalists and on the political rulers to respect the freedom of the press and expression. Journalism is not a crime.”

(Translated by Tim Drayton)

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Ekrem İmamoğlu takes office as İstanbul Metropolitan Mayor

Opposition CHP’s İstanbul candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu takes office as İstanbul Metropolitan Mayor. After 25 years, the İstanbul Metropolitan Mayoralty has passed from the AKP to the CHP.

 İstanbul Metropolitan Mayor-elect for the CHP, Ekrem İmamoğlu, gets the certificate of election from provincial election council.

Following seventeen days of objections, Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu has obtained his certificate of election. After 25 years, the İstanbul Metropolitan Mayoralty has passed from the AKP to the CHP.

Following a number of recounts from Turkey’s local elections last month, the İstanbul mayoral candidate from the main opposition party on Wednesday received his certificate of election from electoral authorities.

Ekrem İmamoglu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) was awarded the certificate of the election at İstanbul Courthouse, where the İstanbul Election Council is located, to become mayor of Istanbul.

The certificate followed recounts in districts of the metropolis such as Maltepe, Büyükçekmece, and Fatih.

Having obtained his certificate of election from the Provincial Election Board housed in the Istanbul Judicial Complex, İmamoğlu proceeded to the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality building for the handing over ceremony.

Before ascending to Mevlüt Uysal’s office for the ceremony, Ekrem İmamoğlu addressed a large number of citizens who had gathered in front of the town hall. İmamoğlu said he would make an address on top of the campaign bus following the handing over ceremony. İmamoğlu said, “We took our certificate of the election on behalf of our sixteen million people. We never gave up on society’s faith in democracy and the fight for this. We did not surrender anyone’s right. We said, ‘We will not let the right of sixteen million be usurped.’ There are processes continuing just now. We’re aware of this. We’re certainly expecting clear pronouncements immediately from the relevant bodies in connection with these processes for the wellbeing and happiness of our residents of our city. Our mind is clear. The onus is on us from now on. We’ll continue on our path while protecting the moral values and lifestyles of the people living in this city.” İmamoğlu went up to Mevlüt Uysal’s office and officially took over as Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor.

“WE’RE BRINGING PEACE TO THIS CITY’S PEOPLE”

Following the handing over ceremony, İmamoğlu mounted the campaign bus in front of the town hall and addressed the thousands of citizens who had assembled there. İmamoğlu spoke as follows:

“We’re bringing peace and we’re bringing respect to this city’s beautiful people. I greet this city’s people, I greet this city’s Turks, I greet this city’s Kurds, I greet this city’s Lazes. I greet their faiths. I greet the Sunnis from among them and I greet the Alevis from among them. I greet the Christians and Armenians from among them. I greet everyone who lives in this beautiful city. Welcome, Istanbul. We never gave up. We never gave up on rights and the law and justice. We never gave up, and never will, on this city’s conscience and sense of morality and this city’s sense of justice.

We did not give up on peace, and we did not give up on whatever universal values there are in this world. We did not give up on the republic. We did not give up on our faith in this people. We did not give up on Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

I will devote myself to the babies, children and young people of this city. My valued fellow city dwellers, we have constantly spoken of this in the streets and squares, we will smile at one another. Nobody is now alienated.

This city’s upper crust is now the citizens. There is to be no plundering of this city’s bounty. There is to be a sharing of this city’s bounty. I have usurped nobody’s right and will not let yours be usurped.

What counts is serving this city and this world. We reject service for oneself, for particular people, for parties. We are coming to serve this country’s and this city’s people. We will serve everyone. I will serve supporters of the Republican People’s Party, of the Good Party, of the AK Party, of the MHP, of the HDP and of the Felicity Party. I will not discriminate against any of my people.

My hand will be in your hand at all times. My valued fellow city dwellers, I also want a promise from you. I will make a mistake one day. To put it bluntly, I may stumble and fall. Are you prepared to hold my hand and lift me to my feet as sixteen million people? I have come to be your fellow traveller.

I have special thanks for those who stood democratic watch over the ballot boxes for seventeen days, my deputy general chairs and members of parliament who did not leave me on my own over this process. I thank my party that brought me into togetherness and acquaintance with you in this way. I thank my party’s general chair, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, with all his interest and reassurance.

I thank the Good Party that was in alliance with us with its full support and steadfastly stood at my side at all times. And I thank its most valuable General Chair Meral Akşener.

I thank all those who live in this city regardless of whether they voted.

We will unite this city with the arts, production and science. We will not busy you with empty goings-on. We have to do a lot of work. We absolutely need the labour and experience of all of you. I promise you the most democratic of mayoralties.

Going home from here tell all those you see in a smiling, cheerful, enthusiastic and hopeful way that a new start has come to Istanbul.

I want a promise from you. Tell the whole of Istanbul and everyone will bring one of their neighbours to this weekend’s gathering. Will we sing songs arm in arm with women, men, kids and youngsters? There is to be no discrimination in bringing your neighbour here. Everyone will invite everyone.

When I set out on the road, I said you will love me dearly. Have I kept my word?

After having completed our duties, we will go to Atatürk’s Mausoleum once more.” (EVRENSEL DAILY)

(Translated by Tim Drayton)

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