Protestors Face Death Penalty
23rd June 1999
An observer from the Islamic Human Rights Commission was sent to monitor the trial of the Malatya 75 which was adjourned Tuesday, 22 June 1999. IHRC was particularly concerned with these cases, as the prosecutor has asked for the death penalty for 51 of them. The 75 were arrested after participating in a demonstration against a ban on female students wearing headscarves and attending university.
The 75 were being tried under Section 146 of the Penal Code. They were charged with trying to change the constitutional order by force.
The observer noted that police and army presence was especially high at the hearing. Lawyers for the 75 are concerned that the process will be prevaricated over a series of one day hearings. Politically motivated prosecutions in the past have been known to last up to 7 years.
The senior judge conceded that five of the defendants had been tortured. However he upheld the charges against 70 of the defendants on what can only be described as spurious grounds. This included the possession of books in Kurdish and on Kurdish issues, on socialism and on political Islam.
On the growing controversy over the headscarf ban, IHRC observer, barrister Osama Daneshyar said, "The Turkish system is trying to deny these girls their basic human rights to the freedom of religious expression and their right to education. This trial, in particular, is not based on evidence but conjecture and prejudice. These prosecutions have more to do with the paranoia of the state. There is still no evidence to support the prosecution case that these people were trying to overthrow the system. You cannot have a fair trial, when these people are charged with an act which is considered to be a person's right under the European Convention of Human Rights to which Turkey is a signatory.”
Representatives of Turkish human rights organisation Mazlumder were denied access to the hearing. Last week their offices across Turkey, were raided and closed down by police. The homes of several of its executive officers were also raided.
Those on trial and facing the death penalty include a 16 year old, Gulan Intisar Saatcioglu. Her part in the alleged attempt at changing the constitution was to read out a poem entitled 'Song of Freedom' at the demonstration. Two of her sisters, and her mother, journalist Huda Kaya also face the death penalty. The trial resumes next month.
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