11/10/2021 | Writer: Yıldız Tar

Everyone participated in METU Pride March have been acquitted because it is realized that there was nothing to constitute a crime. One person was served with a fine for insult.

Acquittal at METU Pride March! Kaos GL - News Portal for LGBTI+

The seventh trial of the METU case, in which 18 students and one academic from METU are jugged for participating in the METU Pride March on 10th May 2019, was heard at Ankara 39th Criminal Court of First Instance today (8 October).

Active participation to the hearing

Several people from right organizations, embassies and the press followed the hearing. Representatives from Kaos GL, May 17, SPoD, GALADER, Red Umbrella, Boğaziçi LGBTİ+, Association for Monitoring Equal Rights, Media and Law Studies Association, Civil Rights Defenders, the embassies of Netherland, Switzerland, Norway, USA, France, Denmark and Belgium and the EU Turkey Delegation were among the audiences of the hearing.

Besides the right organizations and embassies, People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Ankara MP Filiz Kerestecioğlu and İzmir MP Murat Çepni and Worker’s Party of Turkey (TİP) MP Ahmet Şık also followed the hearing.

“We came exclaiming acquittal”

The hearing has begun with the identity checks. LGBTI+ activist’s lawyer Öykü Didem Aydın requested to do identity checks for the undercover police officer and remove them from the court if there was any. The judge accepted the request. Upon the request of the judge, the police officers in uniform were removed from the court. Therewith lawyer Aydın demanded that the undercover police officers also should be taken out of the court. Then the judged told that he did not know if there was any, lawyer Aydın turned to the audience and asked “Is there any undercover police officer here?”

After the police officers left the courtroom, lawyer Aydın started making defense. She began as: “We came here exclaiming acquittal. We have been waiting for the trial to end up. While filling a lawsuit against the Pride March, which is one of the fundamental rights and freedoms, itself, is a violation of rights, we do not want one more violation of rights and we expect acquittal.”

The court entered an acquittal to everyone because it is realized that there was nothing to constitute a crime. One person was served with a fine for insult. It was deferred to announce the verdict.

“Did the verdict of Ankara Administrative Tribunal escape prosecutor’s notice?”

Then lawyer Aydın started the talk about the prosecutor’s final opinion. She underlined that the prosecutor demanded the acquittal of five students and penalization of 12 students and one academic on the grounds of “participating an illegal demonstration march and not to swarm out of there despite all the warnings and used force by law enforcement officers”.

Referring the verdict about the unlawful demonstration ban rendered by Ankara 7th Administrative Tribunal lawyer Aydın asked: “We submitted this verdict to the file. Did this verdict of Ankara Administrative Tribunal escape prosecutor’s eyes at the final opinion?”

“Police terrorized the campus”

Aydın emphasized that the final opinion was against the law and the Rector usurped the title of the Governor by imposing a ban via e-mail. She went on: “Police are the ones who disturbed the peace by occupying the campus. Our clients are not even close to damage public order or safety so what is the aim of this final opinion? The entrance of the police force to the campus is not about open or imminent treat, the only reason it shows is the ill intention of the law enforcement regarding LGBTIQ+s. Law enforcement attacked Pride March, otherwise that would go on in a sense of occasion, and so to say terrorized the campus.”

Reminding the presented shreds of evidence to the court lawyer Aydın said: “We can clearly see and hear the police saying ‘We are against your existence.’”

Having read out her clients’ defenses from the previous hearing one by one lawyer Aydın requested their acquittal. Aydın started the defenses at 10.10 and completed at 11.30. Following her defense, the defendants said that they repeated their previous statements in their defense.

“No need to take permission for a peaceful rally”

As for the lawyer Mert Ekinci, reminding the experiences at METU Pride March, he said “Rectorship of METU pretend as if permission is necessary for a peaceful rally. There is not a necessity of permission in accordance with the law no 2911. The verdict is against the law. In our laws only making a declaration is necessary. The main reason of this is to provide security of the people participating the meeting by the state.”

Criticizing the preparation of the indictment and final opinion according to the police inquiry reports Lawyer Ekinci said: “This ban was removed by the court however removing a ban on it is also against the law. Any intervention based on this verdict is against the law. We have to reverse the indictment. In fact, the people should replace, who are at the bar and who are complainants.” He also underlined that the observes from Ankara Bar Association Lawyer Rights Center were not allowed to enter the campus and accordingly they were not able to report the violation of rights against the lawyers.

“Police are abusing the courts for their own hostility”

And another lawyer Erkan Çiftçi started his defense as: “The file on trial is not juristic. Juristic texts contain juristic grounds. Police are abusing the courts for their own hostility.” He drew attention to that the Governorship acted as the police station of the government in power, especially when it comes to public events. Reminding that the students have freedom of assembly and expression he said: “When we demand acquittal what we demand is justice in fact. Right here and now a group of people, who were brought here by the armed persons following prevention their freedom of expression, are judged.”

“These files are results of the intolerance of the state towards LGBTI+s”

Another lawyer Candan Dumrul held the floor and she said: “It is not possible that the Pride March constitute a crime according to the law no 2911. It is unacceptable that the police, himself proclaiming that it was against law, interfere in a protest. In the present case, peaceful nature of the Pride March was affected and damaged by the law enforcement.“

Following Dumrul, lawyer Hazal Aydın continued: “These kinds of files are results of the intolerance of the state towards LGBTI+s. I have also participated to the pride marches for years, they were all peaceful meetings. However, when the law enforcement started violence against law this kind of cases occurred.”

“The Rector misconducted”

Melike Balkan, one of the LGBTI+ activists judged, started her defense reminding that they are aware of their rights on the grounds of Law on Meetings and Demonstrations, no 2911. They underlined that it was also checked out that the Pride March was legal by the verdict of the Administrative Court and said “The Rector, who does not have authority on banning the march, had based the ban on Governorship’s ruling. However, there was not a legal Governorship’s ruling. The Rector misconducted.” 

Balkan also reminded that the response of Turkish Government to the independent experts of UN about the issue also admitted that there wasn’t a ban imposed by Governorship and went on: “No one knows when, and how physical violence was used against whom. We don’t know either because video recordings of the police are missing. We are precluded to access the shreds of evidence. Although we had demanded all the video recordings completely from the beginning of the case, the video recordings are still not available even today, when we are expecting the verdict. The supreme violence is to judge the people, who have been subject to the police violence, along two years. These people are grasping in the dark for two years. The police who used violence and were identified are not judged here, the ones who used their democratic rights are judged. I participated in the METU Pride March and I held the march on. I am proud of it. If participating this march is a crime, yes I perpetrated the crime. However there is not a crime by no means.”

 “I’m here, get used to it, I will not go anywhere!”

Following Balkan, Özgür Gür began to speak: “I was a student when the case started. I am not for a long time. I am one of the millions of people who have been subjected to the violence of police and hated of government. I am struggling for the queers at high schools and universities, not to make them feel lonely just as I didn’t feel alone at METU Pride March and thereafter.” Referring to the other cases in Turkey like Hande Buse Şeker, who was killed by a police officer, and those prosecuted from Boğaziçi Gür said: “I’m here, get used to it, I will not go anywhere!”

Gür also told that the policemen who attacked the pride were in the courtroom in the course of his defense. Reminding that one of the police officers saying “The state is mine / I am the state” Gür asked: “Isn’t the state also mine? Does not the state belong to the sex worker transwomen, whose houses were sealed in Bayram Street?”  

“The attackers are going to be judged here”

Referring the claims that LGBTI+s do not exist in their so-called culture Gür said. “LGBTI+s are everywhere, in every culture and every time. Look, here we are. We are at the streets, at workplaces, at stalls and also we exist in the houses where the labor is invisible. Pride March is one of my rights, it is the right of LGBTI+s. I am proud of attending Pride March. I will also say the same sentences even it would be considered as a crime sometime in the future. Probably in a few years people will not be able to believe the issue we were judged about. Moreover, the attackers are going to judge here.”

“Each verdict get a message across the society at criminal procedures”

And finally lawyer Mahmut Şeren held the floor. He told that the admissions of a law enforcement official took place at the expert report and went on: “He gives time to start warning however he takes into custody without warning. He also tells it.” He drew attention that the acquittal should be returned not because of lack of evidence and he said:, “Each verdict get a message across the society at criminal procedure. If this case ends up with a penalty, some people will be punished for participating a peaceful demonstration, some of them will be punished for clamoring against police violence and some of them will be punished for recording the torture. I have been attending pride marches for years. You will not be the first who return an acquittal but if you do, you will be the first to penalize that much people.”

Translation: Selma Koçak

Tags: human rights