Turkey: Leading Academic and Publisher Jailed in Police Sweep Against Kurdish Group
For the last few years, Turkish authorities have increasingly been turning their attention towards curtailing the growth of the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organization that brings together several groups working towards promoting a kind of cultural and political autonomy for Turkey's Kurds. As part of that effort, hundreds (some claim thousands) of Kurdish politicians and activists have been arrested in police sweeps across Turkey, accused of being linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). In what is a troubling development, police yesterday arrested another large group of activists, among them a respected professor of law who was working with the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) on constitutional reform and a well-known publisher, both of whom have now been jailed pending trial. From Today's Zaman
An İstanbul court on Tuesday arrested 44 suspects, including Professor Büşra Ersanlı and publisher Ragıp Zarakolu, on terrorism charges as part of an investigation into the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella group that allegedly encompasses the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its affiliated organizations.
Ersanlı and Zarakolu were taken to the Beşiktaş Courthouse on Monday along with 48 others who were detained on Friday by the İstanbul Police Department's counterterrorism unit.
Ersanlı, a member of the Peace and Democracy Party's (BDP) Party Council and Constitutional Commission, Belge Publishing House representative Zarakolu and 48 others were interrogated by a prosecutor following a medical examination. The prosecutor referred 47 of them to court late on Monday, requesting their arrest and accusing the suspects of establishing a terrorist organization, leading a terrorist organization and being members of a terrorist organization.
Three of the suspects were released after being interrogated. The court only issued arrest warrants for 44 of the 47 suspects referred to court by the prosecutor.
The KCK is accused of attempting to establish an alternative governing system and terrorizing locals in the country's predominantly Kurdish areas. Most of the accused face charges of membership in and/or aiding and abetting a terrorist group. The investigation into its activities is being conducted by İstanbul Public Prosecutor Adnan Çimen.
Ninety-six people were arrested as part of another operation against the KCK in İstanbul earlier this month. The KCK investigation started in December 2009 and a large number of Kurdish politicians, including several officials from the BDP, have been detained as part of the case since then.
In a good column, also in Today's Zaman, analyst Lale Kemal looks at the KCK arrests and suggests that their lack of transparency could cause trouble for the Turkish government. From her column:
At the center of the problem of the KCK operations is the scarce and confusing information coming from the judicial authorities that failed to justify the large number of arrests.
Most of the information relayed about the KCK operations has been from press reports leaked by security officials, rather than public statements made by the judiciary justifying the arrests.
For example, the arrest of a professor and an activist late last week came as a surprise to many. Professor Büşra Ersanlı, who was assisting the BDP’s preparations to draft proposals for a planned new civilian constitution, and a human rights activist and publisher, Ragıp Zarakolu, were detained last week as part of the police operations against the KCK. Zarakolu was charged in 2009 with spreading propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organization because of a book published by his Belge Publishing House.
Are the KCK operations a case of political genocide, as BDP deputy Sebahat Tuncel declared last Saturday? It is hard for the BDP to convince the public over its reactions to the KCK operations. This is because the BDP has so far failed to cut its ties with the PKK, which has stepped up its violence and has been targeting civilians.
Independent of the BDP’s stance on the KCK matter, the informed section of the Turkish public are not satisfied with the few legal explanations being made over the reasons for the detention of so many people.