Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mamoste's Trial-Day 1

I am going to publish, hopefull one after the other, a diary of this week at the KCK trial in Silivri.  Here is Day 1

The crowd in front of the courtroom--this is where we come and go every day.

DAY 1—Monday, July 2nd
The road to Silivri Prison looks like a Van Gogh painting. On the left is the sapphire blue of the Marmara Sea, on the right, Rolling fields of sunflowers.  Only a few blossoms have opened—they are spots of bright yellow in an ocean of deep green. The sky is perfect—blue with cotton candy clouds hugging close to the ground.
The road to the prison is blocked by police. They are checking the IDs. Two officers board the bus—a city bus—and ask who’s going to the trial.  They make a note of our answer and leave.  The road continues through more fields of sunflowers. At a bend, there is a tank and five troop transports full of gendarmes.  Near  the prison are eighteen more soldier transports and another tank. The bus driver sighs and shakes his head, ‘They’re getting ready for a war.’
A crowd has started to form in front of the courthouse, but it’s still early and rumors are coming in that police in Istanbul stopped several busloads of supporters from leaving. In Taksim, a journalist friends says, they put wheel locks on the BDP busses. We get observer passes easily enough—bright yellow cards with red cords—and pass into the courtroom.  The hearing is set to begin at 9:00, but this is Turkey, and the courtroom does not open until 10:30.
The courtroom is huge.  The suspects sit up a front—one hundred and forty people from the prison including the famous professor Büşra Ersanlı and of course, my father-in-law, Kemal Seven. We run up the stairs to the back to get a better view. We can’t see him at first—he’s shorter than the others and everyone is so frantically waving to their families.  I catch sight of him the middle, toward the back, clapping both hands up in the air.  ‘I see him,’ I say.  And then all the daugthers—my wife and sisters-in-law get anxious. ‘Where?  Where?’  They rush up the steps for a better view and just then he pushes forward and, when he at the very back, hops up onto the back of a chair and shouts ‘Bi xer hatine!’ with arms thrown wide.  This is ‘welcome all of you!’ in Kurmanci. This is the first time I’ve seen him in 9 months.
Elation. His hair is whiter, his moustache is white—the last time I saw him it was still salt and pepper gray. He’s in black like all the others—they chose the color today for solidarity—and it suits him.
Proceedings start like a school meeting—first all the lawyers introduce themselves. There are over a hundred of them and not all of them have arrived.  The first to speak lodges a protest immediately—the lawyers are being delayed at security, forced to get cards like the observers have. This is unprecedented—several are stuck in the crowd outside and can’t get in. The judge overrules and introductions continue. Then it comes to the suspects. The first name is called.
‘Ez livir im,’ he says in Kurdish.  A notable tension falls on the room.
In Turkish, the judge asks his father’s name.
In Kurdish comes the response.  And the microphone is taken away.
The second name is called.
‘Ez livir im,’ he says.
Again the microphone is taken away.
The lawyers launch into a spirited defense then of the right to defend oneself in the mother tongue—one after the other they stand and present their arguments. They cite the countries that allow in defenses in second languages. They talk about how, when defending oneself against a long jail sentence against such a serious crime, it is important to use one’s mother tongue. They talk about Turkey’s history of oppressing Kurdish.  For some of the prisoners, this is symbolic—they can speak Turkish well enough. For others, who cannot speak much Turkish at all, it is imperative.
At lunch break, we come out of the court room to a throng.  Crowds of protesters from the BDP and KESK crowd the courtyard.  The small room where we got our visitors passes is jammed with people yelling. It’s so crowded they spill over the counter. No more visitor’s passes to be had. We lend our passes to our members of the family and for the rest of the afternoon, they take turns going inside. We sit against a fence and have tea and pargaç—there are soldiers everywhere, lining the fence, out on the street, sitting in the windows.  They are dressed in body armor with billy clubs and riot shields and pepper gas.  Some have kalishnikovs.
After lunch, the lawyer’s demands for a Kurdish defence was rejected. There would be no defense in Kurdish. The judge tried to read the indictment, but the lawyers stood in protest. ‘If there is no defense in Kurdish,’ they said, ‘then there’s no reason for us to be here.’ At that moment, commandos entered the courtroom.
Outside, on the way home, the painting unfolds again. A man is cutting hay on his tractor in the distance. The sea is a deep navy on the horizon and bright green at the shore.

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