There are a few court hearings (one earlier this month, one last week, and one next week) that I’d like to review.
First, see if you can match the action with the sentence:
1. Throwing a shoe at a world leader
2. Keeping a beat on a drum
3. Saying to a judge ‘I fight for freedom. I do not recognise this court.’
Now here are the sentences:
a. 13 years
b. 1 year and 3 months
c. 3 years and 8 months
Okay, match them up. Done? The correct answers are: 1.c, 2.a, 3.b. How many did you guess correctly?
Let’s start with case number three. It’s a bit misleading as no one really said that. In actuality, that’s just dialogue from a novel. The character, a member of the PKK, spoke these words in a novel and is then admonished for disrespecting the court. The author of the novel, N. Mehmet Güler received 15 months in jail for daring to have a fictional character say that! Güler, violating infamous article 7/2 of Turkey’s Anti-Terror Law, was convicted of ‘making propaganda for the PKK.’ The novel is ‘More difficult decisions than death’ (Ölümden Zor Kararlar) and was published by Belge Publishing. The publisher was acquitted. I know it happens, but the fact remains that prosecuting a novelist for fictional dialogue is scary. Terrorism charges, nonetheless.
Going on to case number two. Mêrxas Viyan faces 13 years for playing the def [see drum in photo]. He, like Güler and his fictional characters, is charged with ‘making propaganda for a terrorist organisation.’ Viyan participated in the celebrations on 19 October 2009 when the 34-person Peace Group crossed into Turkey. (They’re all on trial now too). Viyan, a singer by training, was keeping the beat on his drum as others shouted pro-Kurdish slogans. So, if the slogans, by the judge’s interpretation, are considered making propaganda, then by logical conclusion (of course) a person whacking a stick on the drum must support those statements. Therefore, he too, is guilty of violating article 7/2. Oh, and he’s also been charged with ‘membership in a terrorist organisation.’
Interviewed by DiHA, Mêrxas says this is like a joke. He says he was only keeping the beat and was there to support the government’s initiative. He planned on appearing in court with his instrument. The hearing began last week on 17 June. This is not the first time someone has been charged for this musical offence. In Viyan’s case, the charges cross into the realm of absurdity. I’m not sure how judges take themselves seriously when trying these cases.
Obviously the most serious crime here is throwing a shoe at a world leader. If you recall, back in February a young Kurdish man threw his size 44 shoe at Erdoğan, who was in Sevilla, Spain at the time to receive a culture award. Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General, was the first recipient of this award back in 2006. The Spanish foundation that sponsors the award chose Erdoğan for ‘his contributions to maintaining international security and peace and cooperation in resolution of international disputes and [his efforts] for improving friendship relations among peoples.’ I could do a whole post on my thoughts around that, but let’s just stick to the court cases.
Hokman Joma’s shoe missed the Turkish Prime Minister, but he now sits in a jail in Sevilla on charges of slander, resisting arrest and a crime against an international personality. If convicted of all three he could see a sentence of three years and eight months and a fine of 1,500 €. He also runs the risks of being deported back to Syria. There is supposed to have been a Turkish press conference about this case today, though I haven’t seen any news about it. Joma’s trial begins on Monday.
In an interview with the Spanish press, Joma says his actions were not premeditated and he threw the shoe so that Spaniards would know about the Kurdish situation. Some may hail the actions of Hokman Joma, but I’m not sure it’s the right way to go about raising awareness of Kurdish issues. Protests, signs, strikes, letter writing campaigns, blogs, in my opinion, are much better. He may spend a few years in jail. Hopefully it will be in Spain and not in Syria.
Önderoğlu, Erol. Author Güler Sentenced on Behalf of Novel Characters. bianet, 11 June 2010.
Judge asks 13 years imprisonment for ‘making propaganda’ with tambourine. DiHA Dicle News Agency, 19 May 2010.
Poursuivi en justice pour avoir joué du def. Bersiv, 20 May 2010.
Artacho, Francisco. Si España me manda a Siria, me condena a muerte. Público.es, 12 May 2010.