The trial of the KCK, the alleged urban extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), began on Monday with 151 suspects, including mayors and politicians, and approximately 300 lawyers, along with many local and foreign observers closely following the case.
The suspects on Monday demanded the right to defend themselves in Kurdish and when their names were read in the courtroom, they answered in Kurdish, stating that they were present. The 151 suspects, 103 of them under arrest and the 48, including Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir, who are not under arrest, on Monday also asked the court to skip the reading of indictment, which is more than 7,500 pages long. The court on Tuesday decided that a short summary of the indictment would be read.
Presiding judge of the Diyarbakir 6th High Criminal Court Menderes Yılmaz said hearings carried out through translators would prolong the trial process and therefore the panel of judges unanimously rejected the demands of suspects to defend themselves in Kurdish.
Yılmaz also stressed that the suspects in previous stages of the process, such as when they were arrested or testified to the public prosecutors, spoke in Turkish. Yılmaz, while explaining their decision for rejecting the defense in Kurdish, said that they took into consideration the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
Despite the rejection of their demand to conduct their defense in Kurdish, some suspects insisted on speaking Kurdish, and while they were verifying their personal details some of the suspects said, in Kurdish, that they condemn the decision of the court.
The suspects, including 12 mayors and a handful of politicians, are accused of wide-ranging crimes such as membership in an illegal armed group, spreading propaganda for an illegal group, threatening Turkey's territorial integrity and violating laws on public demonstrations.
The primary suspect in the case is Sabri Ok, the PKK's European representative. Ok, who has extensive connections, is accused of leading the KCK. Security experts say he is responsible for the close ties between the KCK and the Ergenekon terrorist organization, a clandestine gang that had planned to overthrow the government. Amidst internal conflict within Ergenekon, it has maintained direct communication with the KCK regarding attacks – a fact that is mentioned in the case indictments of both the Ergenekon and the KCK cases.
The indictment requests sentences up to and including life imprisonment for the 151 suspects, 103 of whom are already detained, on charges of harming the unity and integrity of the state, being a member and/or top member of a terrorist organization and aiding and abetting a terrorist organization.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, while answering questions from reporters regarding the demand of the suspects to speak in Kurdish, said that for those persons who don't know Turkish it is very normal and right act to let them speak in other languages including Kurdish.
"But the case is more complicated. Since the beginning, they [suspects] have been speaking in Turkish, but now while the whole world is closely monitoring the case they are demanding to speak in Kurdish. It is up to the court to decide on which language will be used, and whatever the decision the court makes will be a right one," Arınç said.
Meanwhile, Diyarbakır Mayor Baydemir was acquitted in another case in which he was suspected of helping the terrorist PKK.
According to allegations he gave TL 600 to a young man to help him join the PKK, but the public prosecutor stressed that there was not enough evidence to back up the allegation.