And justice for all

And justice for all

The courthouse in Istanbul’s Çağlayan Square is quite an odd architectural masterpiece. It is considered the largest courthouse in Europe. It took years and $250 million to build it, but it only took a couple of hours to destroy its credibility as well as the precious life of a prosecutor.

Two ultra-leftist militants took prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz hostage in the biggest courthouse in Europe. After eight hours of very shady and careless negotiations, the prosecutor, a symbol of justice on behalf of the public, father to a son, husband to a wife who is a judge, was no longer with us. The two young militants from the far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) were also killed during the police raid. The result? The Turkish state failed to protect the life of one of its own guarantors of rights and justice.

Sadly, from now on, Berkin Elvan’s murder case will remain in the shadows. The terrorists who took the prosecutor hostage demanded the police officers responsible for Elvan’s death be made public. Prosecutor Kiraz was so deep in the case he had almost indicated the cops responsible. Now, three people are dead and Mr. Kiraz’s files are back in the closet.

“The moral arch of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” These are the words of Martin Luther King Jr. which are often cited by U.S. President Barack Obama. If you believe justice will be served, time is a small matter indeed. Weeks and months are nothing if your name rings in the hearts and minds of thousands of people longing for fairness and justice. Such was the name of Berkin Elvan, until this week. Such will be the name of prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz from this point on. 

Nowhere on earth are these words truer than in Turkey this week. After years of trials and jail sentences, all 236 Sledgehammer case defendants were acquitted on all charges. The justice system which had taken them away from a promising future has managed to put everything back in order again. Better late than never, they say. And now, this has a meaning.

Now, with the killing of the prosecutor, Berkin Elvan’s case is closed in the conscience of the majority of the Turkish public. Before this brutal killing, even the most devout Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Erdoğan supporters sympathized with the Elvan family’s cause and their search for justice. Now, just like in bad Middle Eastern regimes, an eye for an eye has been taken. And this will be the end of all legal struggles for human rights and basic freedoms. 

Turkey’s left knows all too well that killing a man who works for justice kills an entire political movement. Ankara’s legendary prosecutor Doğan Öz was killed by nationalist militant İbrahim Çiftçi on March 28, 1978, while he was investigating the “deep state.” His assassination marked the beginning of the coup d’etat in 1980. The coup practically destroyed the left and the nationalist movements. Now, two decades later, the DHKP-C is doing the same kind of dirty work on someone else’s behalf.

With tears and sorrow, I left the building I had visited numerous times, most recently as a “suspect.” I had presented my written defense to another remarkable prosecutor on the 7th Floor of the biggest courthouse in Europe. It is now a landmark of disgrace and shame for the Turkish state. 

Prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz who wears a cloak without buttonholes so he or she does not yield to any power, who calls for justice “on behalf of the public,” a symbol of our unity and our search for fairness, was killed there. And we could do nothing to save him.