Pınar Selek’s judicial nightmare
Oral ÇalışlarPınar Selek’s case has been ongoing for 15 years. The court, which had acquitted her twice by withdrawing its own verdict, has added its signature to an interesting new legal scandal. A verdict is set to be reached today (Thursday, Dec. 13) about Pınar, at a hearing to be held at Çağlayan Courthouse.
Pınar Selek was detained in July 1998 by the Istanbul Security Department and after two and a half years in prison she was released in December 2000. Because she refused to name the people she had interviewed during her research, she underwent heavy torture and her work was confiscated.
Her research focused on the Kurdish issue and had started in 1997. Pınar was one of those who became a target that year when the Feb. 28 postmodern coup was staged.
They wanted to convict her for being responsible for an explosion at Istanbul’s Mısır Çarşısı (Spice Bazaar) that took place two days before she was detained. Let’s remember: When she was detained, two days after the incident, she was not even asked one question about the explosion at the Spice Bazaar.
The first case against her was opened, as one individual, for being a member of an illegal organization. While she was under arrest at Ümraniye Prison, she learned that she was associated with the explosion that had happened one and a half months before by the TV - not by the police.
Other defendants who spoke at the trial that started on December 1998 said they had been heavily tortured, and also that they had never met Pınar Selek before. In its June 2000 report, Istanbul University’s Analytic Chemistry Department said: “The prosecutor’s report is not scientific, it is written with an intention to mislead the court. Nitrocellulose can be found in several substances, but it is not proof of the presence of a bomb.” In its report July 2000 report, Cerrahpaşa Medical Faculty’s Forensic Department also said the prosecutor’s report was not scientific, coming to the conclusion: “None of the evidence matches with injuries inflicted by the explosion of a bomb.” Three expert professors assigned by the court declared that the explosion was definitely because of a gas leak, not because of a bomb.
In 2006, Istanbul’s 12th Criminal Court reached its first acquittal decision about Selek and Abdülmecit Öztürk, based on the fact that “there was no certain and convincing evidence that demanded a punishment.” The Supreme Court of Appeals then returned this decision. After the retrial, on May 23, 2008, Istanbul’s 12th Criminal Court repeated its previous judgment and acquitted Selek and Öztürk over the Spice Bazaar explosion. As the acquittal of Öztürk was not then appealed, that verdict was confirmed.
In other words, the prosecutor who accused Selek based on the “alleged confession” of Öztürk did not appeal Öztürk’s acquittal, but did appeal Selek’s. While the confession minutes stating, “We organized the attack together” - which Öztürk was forced to accept and sign under torture - were not considered valid and convincing for himself, they were somehow accepted as valid and convincing for Pınar.
On Nov. 22, 2012, Istanbul’s 12th Criminal Court, the judges of which were changed, withdrew Selek’s acquittal verdict, even though this had not been authorized. In a case that it had ruled, the court - in a scandalous decision, unprecedented not only in Turkey’s legal history but also in the legal history of the entire world - reached a second verdict and withdrew its own acquittal decision, against procedure and law and without authorization. Pınar is now continuing her thesis studies abroad. Her heart and eyes are in Turkey. “I want to return to Turkey when my thesis is completed. I love my country. I grew up in its streets. Please do anything you can, everybody do anything you can for me to return to my country.”
The nightmare has been ongoing for 15 years.
Oral Çalışlar is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece was published on Dec. 12. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.