HOPA, Where Turkish Human Rights Died
The West knows little about the events in the tiny bucolic Black Sea town ofHOPA, which transpired before the June general elections. An innocent and largely apolitical protest rally during PM Erdogan’s visit gave birth to one of the most horrifying manhunts and systemic violation of human rights in recent times. Let’s have Hurriyet Daily News recount the events of that day:
“Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s election rally Tuesday (May 31, 2011) in Hopa was marred by protests that resulted in the death of one local resident and the injury of one of the prime minister’s bodyguards.
The last images of the dead man, Metin Lokumcu, were released by news agencies on Wednesday, showing him trying to calm a dispute between riot police and protesters during the clashes in the northeastern town of Hopa on Tuesday. Lokumcu later suffered a heart attack and died the same day after being hospitalized.
The coroner’s office released Lokumcu’s autopsy report, saying he died due to an exposure to tear gas and panic related to heart failure.
The bodyguard fell from the top of the prime minister’s bus and was transferred to a hospital in nearby Trabzon for treatment, Doğan news agency, or DHA, reported, adding that he was in serious condition.
The Anatolia news agency reported, however, that the police officer fell after being hit by a rock thrown at the bus in Hopa, a city on the Georgian border.
Lokumcu, a retired teacher, died in the hospital due to a heart attack, reportedly after collapsing during a police crackdown in the city. Lokumcu’s friends said he was kicked by a police officer while already on the ground due to the gas bombs used by the police.
Nine people were wounded and six others were overcome by pepper gas sprayed by the police, Hopa State Hospital authorities told the Hürriyet Daily News over the phone.
Sedat Varan, the owner of the local newspaper 08 Haber Gazetesi, told the Daily News that the number of protesters was 100 at most but that the tension was still high in Hopa.
“The relatives of Lokumcu and some protesters gathered in front of the Hopa State Hospital, demanding to take the body,” he said. “The officials denied the request as the body was sent to be autopsied and the gendarmerie took over control from the police in the district.”
The protesters in Hope had gathered largely in objection to the many hydro-power dams being built in the region, which are destroying the world-heritage fauna of the pristineBlack Seavalleys. There were some old school leftists, like the deceased Mr. Lokumcu, but the opposition was not involved. Hopa voted mostly AKP in the June elections. However this is not how AKP’s conspiratorial mind viewed the transgression to its supremacy:
“Suat Kılıç, the deputy parliamentary group leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, claimed the protests in Hopa were “proof of the close relationship” between the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, and the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP.
“Just like the BDP supporters, the CHP supporters helped by throwing rocks, invading squares and [holding] illegal protests,” Kılıç told reporters in Samsun. “The biggest threat to democracy now is the fury of the CHP. Of course, this fury will be answered by the people in the June 12 elections.”
On orders of AKP, the police launched a terrifying manhunt, kicking down doors, dragging people out of their homes at dawn, offering price money for information of the protestors, arresting over 60 people. Hopa residents claim that dozens of “suspects” took refuge in the nearby forests to avoid police brutality. At the end
“15 people were arrested during riots in Hopa around the visit of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the city on the eastern Black Sea coast in May this year. A trial was opened against 14 of the defendants before the Erzurum 2nd High Criminal Court, seven of whom were prosecuted according to the Anti-Terror Law (TMK). Twelve defendants are being detained in the Erzurum Prison, two in the Otlu Prison. Their detention will be continued due to other allegations put up against them.”
14 more were arrested in Ankara, when they attempted to protest the Hopa crack-down. Seven were acquitted in the trial, but a bitter fate awaits the remaining defendants:
“One of the most important court cases of recent years, the “Ankara Hopa case,” is starting on Dec. 9. The case is very important because it concerns the “right to protest,” a democratic right of every citizen. After all, the charges directed to the 29 people – mostly university students – arrested in connection with the incident of the Black Sea town of Hopa and related protests may set an example for future protests, even the tiniest ones.
Well, how did we get to this point from May 31 and the incidents in Hopa and Ankara?
ANKARA PROTESTS: The same evening (of the HOPA incident), a protest was organized in Ankara with a call from the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK). More precisely, it could not be organized. Police intervened when a press statement was to be read aloud in front of the provincial headquarters of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). Dilşat Aktaş was hit in the abdomen and her hip was broken. She was left in the middle of the road thinking she was dead (Aktaş is now not the victim of this incident but a defendant). Fifty-four people were detained and several house raids were carried out. Today, 22 people who participated in the demonstrations in Ankara are under arrest waiting to be tried, but not much is mentioned about those people having been tortured and sexually harassed during detention.
WHAT ARE THE CHARGES? In the indictment that was released four months after the arrests, “opposing the government” and “having a leftist world view,” were considered as crimes. Among the evidence were books that were collected and banned in the ‘70s, flag poles found at the “crime scene,” an umbrella with the logo of Chamber of Medical Doctors, notebooks of university students and a Feminist Policy magazine. Separately, the 79-year-old Halkevleri community centers are accused of being “under the guidance of the armed terror organization.”
COMMUNITY CENTERS: According to the indictment, Halkevleri “organize regular actions and activities relevant to the country’s agenda” and, among their “illegal activities,” stand in solidarity with Palestine and protests against the occupation of Iraq. Moreover, even those cases concluded with “lack of ground for legal action” and acquittal years ago were included in the file. According to this, borrowing books from the centers and participating in their activities were also crimes. The “public interest association” status of Halkevleri was revoked on April 4, and they are now treated as “terror cells.”
‘BETWEEN 17 AND 52 YEARS’: According to the indictment prepared by the office of the special court prosecutor, for each defendant jail terms between 17 to 52 years are called for. The first hearing of the case will be held at Ankara’s special criminal court. One of the weaknesses of the case that is “to be debated most” is due to the indictment being prepared based on police “information notes” and “opinion pieces.”
Is it a crime to protest? Those who oppose HES, who throw eggs or who demand free education, are they terrorists? Can an umbrella be classified as a “weapon?” Can books and publications found in those house raids that are very similar to those of Sept. 12 raids be considered as criminal evidence? What about the rights of those people who have been subject to ill treatment and tortured during detention? How will the problems of 52 years of disproportionate force and disproportionate punishment be solved?
If Turkey is to pass the tests of justice and sincerity, these questions need to be answered. On Dec. 9 when the case is due to start, these questions will be asked in front of Ankara Courthouse. Well, especially if the police once more tries to block it with gas and truncheons”.
This Kafkaesque horror show continues even in today, as police arrested 3 students who shaved off their heads in sympathy of their classmates currently being detained in the Hopa case. A photo of the students was somehow sent to the police who arraigned 3 of the 5 students shown in the photo. According to the indictment, the detainees were part of yet another nefarious Crime Syndicate and had resorted to head-shaving” to disguise their identities”.
AKP’s sickening habit of finding enemies lurking behind every close door and connecting all crimes committed inTurkeyto the Ergenekon Crime Syndicate has reached terrifying dimensions when the soccer match-fixing scandal, too, was labeled as the doing of Ergenekon. No, we are not kidding:
“ Match fixing-Ergenekon
Now, even the growing football match fixing-scandal in public view gets connected to the Ergenekon case. The same prosecutor who opened Ergenekon, Zekheria Öz, opened up the match fixing-case and has meanwhile been removed from of both of them. It is as well disturbing for many that a cheating case is dealt with in front of a „Specially Authorised Court“, where the defendants are curbed off many constitutional rights to defend themselves and don’t even know the proves against them, as the procedures are confidential. Ususally these courts deal with coup plotters and „terrorists“, but not with cheaters.
It seems just as strange that the prosecution asks for 87 years imprisonment for the main accused, Fenerbace Club president Aziz Yildirim, and accuses him of „organising an armed criminal organisation“. “Where are the weapons?“, many want to know now. Yildirim is well known for his close contacts to the army, since his family’s company has built the country’s NATO bases and had a hand on weapon deals for the armed forces. For many years Fenerbahce was seen as a Kemalist, laicist stronghold in Turkish football and for many of the club’s fans it seems clear that this is „just an AKP conspiracy against the club and its president“. And the questions, if there was match fixing or not became a side issue under these circumstances. It is rather asked, when there will be an official connection between the cases.”
Nobody is safe inTurkeyfrom the terror of AKP anymore. Thanks to EU’S unrelenting support of AKP’s “human rights reforms” andU.S.need to get along with Erdogan to useTurkeyagainstSyriaandIran, the West has created yet another authoritarian monster, feeding on its own children. To add irony to this sad story, AKP supporters remain the most adamant West-haters in the country. Soon, having devoured all the pray at home, the beast will turn against its ultimate target: The Western Civilization.
 By Mehveş Evin, Millliyet, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/Default.aspx?PageID=238&NID=8146&NewsCatID=396