I too was arrested pending trial in 1980

I too was arrested pending trial in 1980

News over the past week has featured the case in which 74 soldiers, 14 of them under arrest, are on trial for invading the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) Istanbul office on the night of the attempted coup on July 15, 2016. In its fifth hearing, the court decided to release 10 more suspects. 

I flashed back to my own arrest and release after the Sept. 12, 1980 coup. I was arrested in 1980 and jailed for 14 months, after which I was released by the martial law court in which I appeared. I was arrested by a court in the heat of the events and without evidence even being collected, and the court decided to release me only after the evidence was collected and the indictment was written. 

This is very important in terms of justice.  

In the first days after the Sept. 12, 1980 coup, a decision for the total arrest in absentia was made for Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) administrators, of which I was one. Because I trusted in the justice system, I handed myself over. I thought I would be released in a couple of days. 

I ended up in jail for 14 months. A death sentence was demanded for us on charges of “being in the administration of an armed organization and trying to topple the constitutional order to replace it with a fascist regime.” I will never forget the agony my wife and my 8-year-old son suffered. “Even if they don’t hang you, they will give you at least 10 years in jail,” was the common belief. The military judges set to try us were reported to be left-leaning. In prison I got together with other colleagues with a legal background like me to study the indictment and the Military Supreme Court of Appeals practices. 

I remember telling my cell-mates: “Even if our judges are leftists, we will be released. Because the practices of the Military Supreme Court of Appeals are very strong and clear. It would not let the rain fall on the just and the unjust alike. We will be released sooner or later.”

What a misery injustice is; what a blessing it is to trust justice. I learned this in prison by living it. 

The three judges who tried us might have made judicial mistakes, but even under the military regime they never compromised from independence and impartiality. Their behavior was dignified and sensitive. 

After a 14-month arrest I was released and so were many of my colleagues. Releases continued over time. As a record for history, I want to repeat that our judges were independent, impartial, well-equipped and honorable. Other judges who joined the bench later were also the same. 

To come back to today, the recent dismissals have hurt the public conscience. Opening a court case against them is extremely delayed.  

I could understand the widespread detentions at first. But now the investigation stage should end and cases should be opened up. In particular, the indictments for journalists, academics and businessmen who have only made contributions out of goodwill are very late. These people have no relation to any “armed act” that might require their long-term arrest. 

Why are Nazlı Ilıcak, Ali Bulaç, Mümtazer Türköne, Şahin Alpay, Ahmet Turan Alkan, Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan still under arrest? Why are Kadri Gürsel and Murat Sabuncu and other professional journalists, with whom I have worked together at daily Milliyet, still under arrest? 

Their indictments should be written and they should appear in court as soon as possible. Then they should be released pending trial.   

At the time of the Sept. 12 coup, there was no European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). We were counting on the Supreme Court of Appeals as a last resort.

Today, thankfully, there is the ECHR. History will record what happens accordingly.