Bar head sentenced to six years for participation in rallies

Bar head sentenced to six years for participation in rallies

İsmail Saymaz TUNCELİ
Bar head sentenced to six years for participation in rallies A Turkish court has sentenced Tunceli Bar Association head Uğur Yeşiltepe to six years in jail on terrorism charges, making him the first chair of a Turkish bar association to be sentenced to prison since the 1980 military coup.

Yeşiltepe and six others were convicted of terrorist crimes stemming from their alleged membership in the outlawed Maoist Communist Party (MKP).

In their indictment, prosecutors alleged that Yeşiltepe and others engaged in terrorist activity during legal rallies in the eastern province of Tunceli, commonly known by its old name of Dersim.

One of the pieces of evidence against the bar head was a verbal exchange with police during a press statement regarding one of Yeşiltepe’s clients, failed Dersim municipal candidate Murat Kur, who was sentenced to 56 years in jail for shouting slogans commemorating İbrahim Kaypakkaya, a Maoist leader who was tortured and killed by security forces in 1973.

“Mr. Officer, why are you filming [those attending the press statement]? People are like a power keg. You’re preparing summaries of proceedings on flimsy evidence and accusing people – they’re already on edge. Eight, 14 years have been given. Please step back a bit and don’t film,” Yeşiltepe told an officer in the correspondence that was cited as evidence.

Yeşiltepe was also alleged to have engaged in terrorist acts by working on a book about Armenak Bakırcıyan, a Turkish-Armenian revolutionary who was killed while fighting for the outlawed Turkish Workers and Peasants’ Liberation Army (TİKKO).

“I’ve been punished entirely for professional activities,” Yeşiltepe said.

“If the law is stripped of its justice, human rights and freedoms, a ... police state will emerge that will arrest all of us one day. Today it’s me; tomorrow someone else will have problems, and no one will be safe. There’s no fair prosecution,” he added.

Noting that it was impossible to expect the suspects in the case to trust the legal system when those in power had problems with parts of the judiciary not under their control, Yeşiltepe said the Constitutional Court is his "last place of appeal." "But if the government says ‘I don’t trust the court,’ what are ordinary citizens like us supposed to do?” he added.

Malatya prosecutor İsmail Aksoy alleged that Yeşiltepe and the others, including Dersim Culture Association head Ali Mükan, were MKP members on the basis of their participation in 15 legal gatherings, during which frequently heard slogans such as “The murderous state will pay” were shouted. The seven were also charged for participating in May Day rallies, celebrating Nevruz, commemorating Kaypakkaya, issuing press statements against hydropower plants, and attending the funerals of MKP members.

Yeşiltepe and the others have filed an appeal against the sentences. If he is incarcerated, Yeşiltepe will become the first bar head to serve jail time since Istanbul Bar Association head Orhan Adli Apaydın was imprisoned in the wake of the Sept. 12, 1980 coup.