Report from a meeting in parliament, hosted by Lord Rea, in which observers from the January 2011 delegation to the KCK trials in Diyarbakir discussed their findings.

Fr. Joe Ryan, Chair of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Diocese of Westminster
Omer Moore
, human rights lawyer, and partner at Trott & Gentry Solicitors
Nasser Butt
, Liberal Democrat politician and human rights activist
Margaret Owen OBE, barrister and member of Bar Human Rights Committee
Ali Has, solicitor and Britain Peace Council & John Austin (former MP)

Guest speaker: Reimar Heider, International Initiative “Freedom for Ocalan-Peace in Kurdistan”

 Host: Lord Rea

The mass trial of Kurdish politicians and activists began in October 2010 and reconvened for the second time on 13 January when the second UK delegation witnessed the proceedings in the specially built courthouse in Diyarbakir where the 151 leading Kurdish politicians and activists are facing a dossier of charges listed in the 7,500 page document accusing them of links with terrorism.

These prominent prisoners are actually just a small fraction of the many hundreds of Kurdish officials and political representatives, mostly linked to the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), who have been arrested since the March 2009 elections when Kurdish candidates achieved a substantial increase in their vote. Many other Kurds are being tried in provincial courts.

This is one of many reasons why the trial is regarded as highly political in nature. It has all the hallmarks of a show trial, as the independent witnesses have suggested in their vivid reports: the size and scale of the new court room, which stresses the public spectacle of the event, the performance of the judges, the high profile security around the court building.

The trial comes at a crucial time when the AKP government of Prime Minister Erdogan has been making great play internationally of its “opening” to the Kurds and its commitment to reforms. It comes at a time when in reality the rights of the Kurdish people continue to be eroded by criminalisation of their civil organisations and political representatives. The trial has also exposed the grotesque restrictions on the right to self-expression as Kurds are refused their wishes to speak in their mother tongue, a key issue that symbolises the unequal treatment of Kurds in Turkey today.

“This trial has reversed the tables on the Turkish authorities. It would seem that now the reality, in my view, is that the Turkish nation is now on trial for denying the Kurdish prisoners the right to speak in their mother tongue. By denying a people the very existence of their language, there is a much deeper implication; you deny the identity, culture, history and the very essence of a people’s existence,” comments Fr Joe Ryan, who was an observer at the reconvening of the mass trial on 13 January. A full report of the delegation’s observations will be circulated.

The meeting will be an opportunity to assess the implications of the trial including its impact on prospects for a genuine resolution of the Kurdish conflict and the establishment of peace in the country.

The meeting is supported by Kurdistan National Congress (KNK), Kurdish Community Centre (KCC), Kurdish Federation UK, Halkevi and Croydon Community Centres, Roj Women’s Assembly, British Peace Council, Liberation and Peace in Kurdistan Campaign