21/03/2021 | Writer: Yıldız Tar
What happened in the first hearing of the Boğaziçi show trials that were started as a result of the hate campaigns against LGBTI+’s?
Photo: Press release before the hearing, Yıldız Tar / Kaos GL
The first hearing of the case that was initiated after an anti-LGBTI+ hate campaign and arrest of two students for the exhibition of the artworks collected anonymously at Boğaziçi University was held today.
At the hearing held at the Istanbul 21st Criminal Court of First Instance in Çağlayan Courthouse, the court decided to release students Selahattin Can Uğuzeş and Doğu Demirtaş, who had been detained for one and a half months.
So what happened in the hearing, which was marked by the judge's question "Are you an LGBTI member?" to the 7 students on trial.
Police blockaded the courthouse before trial
* Police blockaded the courthouse before the hearing. Armored police vehicles and riot police were deployed around the courthouse. There were police officers in the corridor where the court is located.
* The police also tried to prevent the press statement before the hearing. As a result of the intervention of the parliamentarians, a statement was made under the police blockade. Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) MP Hüda Kaya and independent MP Ahmet Şık also attended the press statement.
* Throughout the statement, the students chanted "What if we are faggots, we are everywhere", "There is no salvation alone, either all together or none of us!", demanded the release of their friends.
* One of the organizations that made a statement was the Istanbul Pride Week Initiative. In the statement, Istanbul Pride Week drew attention to the fact that students were tried with the allegation of "inciting the public to hatred and enmity" and said: "Those who provoke the society are those who present LGBTI+'s and Muslims as two opposing groups while judging our friends."
* A small number of people were taken to the courtroom. HDP Istanbul Deputy Hüda Kaya, Republican People's Party (CHP) Istanbul Deputies Sera Kadıgil and Ali Şeker, CHP Istanbul Provincial Chair Canan Kaftancıoğlu, CHP Deputy Chairperson Gökçe Gökçen, CHP Group Deputy Chairperson Özgür Özel, independent Istanbul Deputy Ahmet Şık were also in the courtroom to monitor the hearing.
* Officials from the US, Swedish and German embassies were also present at the hearing.
* Some members of the press and observers had to watch the hearing in front of the door and standing. Journalists and observers experienced hearing difficulties due to the microphone system used at the courtroom.
* The judge limited the defendants' lawyers to three people. Afterward, the identification of the arrested students Doğu Demirtaş and Selahattin Can Uğuzeş and the five students who were tried without arrest were determined. The indictment was read.
* Attorney Levent Pişkin took the floor and demanded the indictment be returned. Their request was denied.
* Lawyers described that the Yeni Şafak Newspaper, Religious Affairs Administration, the Ministry of Interior and the media has targeted the students with the phrase "LGBTI perverts". And criticized the fact that the lawsuit was initiated on the grounds of "publicly humiliating the religious values that a segment of the society embraces", but the arrests of two students took place citing "inciting enmity and hostility among the public or humiliation".
* The lawyers criticized that the images presented as evidence were ambiguous, that the arrest warrant was not legal but political, and the arrest of two students took place in response of the hate campaigns and asked the court, “How heavy a crime with 6-month imprisonment can be that forces you two arrest these students? They went to testify by their own will, how can you suggest that there is a possibility of escape? They are talking about the suspicion of the spoliation of evidence, yet their evidence is social media and witness statements. How can it be spoiled?"
“We heard the news of arrests from the state TV channel”
* According to the lawyers' reports, Doğu and Selahattin were also subjected to verbal homophobic harassment while being taken to prison after their arrest. About this situation: You targeted and arrested them by saying "LGBTI perverts". Our clients were publicly targeted. The state showed these people as a target.
* The arrested defendant Doğu Demirtaş said the following on their defense:
“We wanted to hold a peaceful protest as the police were attacking us with gas and plastic bullets and decided to continue our protest with an exhibition. The painting was an anonymous work. I have no intention of humiliating anyone or anybody, or inciting enmity or hatred.”
* After Demirtaş, it was the turn for Selahattin Can Uğuzeş for defense. Uğuzeş said, “The works coming there were not subjected to a selection process. About 300-400 works came. When I got home from the exhibition, my friends said that the police came asking for me. So I went to the police headquarters on Vatan Street. They asked questions about painting. Then they tried to make me sign a report stating that Doğu and me hanged that painting. We learned the news from the state TV channel before we were arrested by the prosecutor's office. "
* One of the students on trial said that they did not know where the painting was. Thereupon, the judge said, "Is this the missing image?" and showed the mentioned image.
"They said homosexuality was forbidden and haram in the indictment, thus committing a crime"
*“This indictment does not possess the qualifications of an indictment. If we are living under a Sheria regime, let us know it first. The evaluation has been made based on an interpretation of the Islamic belief. A crime was committed by saying that homosexuality is haram" said Att. Levent Pişkin and criticized the homophobia in the indictment. Pişkin said that the witness statements of persons who were security officers were also not valid, “A report was filed regarding the things happened at a place where they were not present. This is a forgery of documents. This exhibition is subject to the permission of the Rectorate and they even sent invitations to university graduates." Pişkin also reminded the decisions of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe and the freedom of expression, and added that the articles of the TPC, which the students are tried for, are there to protect minorities and "Not to violate their freedom of expression."
*Att. Pişkin also emphasized that it is not the exhibitions and their clients that endanger the public safety, but the Yeni Şafak newspaper which shows people as target. Then, by showing images on social media that a cake with a Kaaba picture was cut and eaten and a model of the Kaaba was made in Üsküdar, “They ate and shared the Kaaba in this country and there was no problem. How did a visual which even doesn't show the Kaaba become a problem? " asked Pişkin.
"It's not the students inciting hatred and enmity, it's Yeni Şafak and the government officials"
* Reminding that the indictment initiated after news published by Yeni Şafak, Att. Deniz Yıldız said, “If you take a look at the social media, you can clearly see who spreads hatred and enmity. It's not the students inciting hatred and enmity, it's Yeni Şafak and the government officials. There is a work that is displayed in the university garden and then it becomes the target of a hate campaign. How does an open and imminent threat emerge out of this?" Att. Yıldız reminded the ECHR and the Constitutional Court decisions and said "Peaceful protest is a right."
*Att. Yıldız also emphasized that students were arrested while their exams were continuing and that their education rights were openly violated.
"This indictment has no meaning in terms of criminal law"
* Att. Akın Hürtaş said, “Since the prosecutor's office could not detect any material findings in the indictment, it makes comments, but these comments are not legal. What is the legal basis of saying that homosexuality is considered forbidden and haram in Islam? I guess the prosecutor's office says "Never mind the legal basis, I looked at the theology about it", criticizing the Islamic basis of the trials. “This indictment has no meaning in terms of criminal law. While having no meaning in terms of theology either” Hürtaş said.
"I am not sure about my safety after getting out of here"
* A student from the Fine Arts Club said, “I have been under house arrest for a long time. We had a meeting on the 4th, discussing that we don't want a trustee-rector. I was a photographer and captured traumatic moments. Then, there was nothing human about what was done to us at another of our meetings, our friends were sprayed with pressurized water. We dreamed of organizing an art festival after these. With the excessive police violence and the appointment of trustees, we wanted to peacefully organize an arts festival. We do not know who made that artwork. It was leaked to Twitter right after the exhibition. Then it was news in Yeni Şafak newspaper. That text at the Yeni Şafak was not news, it was sheer insult. I am not sure about my safety after getting out of here. We have been targeted so much. We wanted to organize a peaceful exhibition where we hosted around 400 works. The reason for our protest was to defend the autonomy of the academy. We are not feeling safe, we are not feeling safe, our psychology has been harmed."
* “Freedom of thought and expression has been violated. The right of my client and other defendants to hold meetings and demonstrations was also denied,” said Att. Doğuşcan Aygün. Att. Yağızcan Veli emphasized once again that the students were targeted by the government and they were subjected to all kinds of physical and psychological oppression.
“There is no such thing as being an LGBTI member, you are criminalizing it”
* The judge asked each student one by one, "Are you an LGBTI member?" Thereupon, Att. Levent Pişkin took the floor, “There is no such thing as being an LGBTI member, you are criminalizing it. I am personally an LGBTI member but a gay one. I can't be all of them. It is not something to be a member of. You have been asking this question from the beginning of the trial. You cannot ask this question. You cannot criminalize LGBTI+ identities by saying LGBTI members. How is this related to this trial" they said. Then the judge said, “I have just heard what LGBTI is. I ask this to learn whether this exhibition is an LGBTI organization. You have the right not to answer”. Then, Att. Pişkin explained to the judge what does lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex means. The judge asked the next student, "Well, was this exhibition organized under the roof of LGBTI?"
* Another student on trial said, "I am a Muslim and I do not understand how this artwork can disturb anyone." Att. Levent Pişkin said, “As a gay lawyer, I would like to tell you that there was a hate campaign against LGBTI+'s from the very beginning. My client is a Muslim, I am homosexual. Who is being provoked against whom here? There are also Muslim homosexuals. Why and how being an LGBTI+ be against being Muslim? Those who are targeting the students are trying to establish this hostility".
“BÜLGBTI+ has been closed after the campaigns”
*Att. Hatice Demir, said, “We thought for a long time that our clients were being consulted for information. It is such a lawless process that we cannot say anything to our clients. Why is my client here? The private security guard who signed the report regarding the disappearance of the artwork is the witness, and my client is the defendant. Dear Prosecutor, why is the security guard who signed that report is a witness here and my client who also signed it is a defendant? This is a process that has lost the notion of law”.
*Att. Demir criticized the question of “Are you an LGBTI member” directed to the students with the following statements: “You asked people whether they are LGBTI+ subjects or if they are related to the LGBTI+ club. Whether any of the students is an LGBTI+ subject or a member of an LGBTI+ club is irrelevant to this case. But if you are wondering, Boğaziçi University LGBTI+ Studies Club was illegally closed as a result of this targeting campaign. And we also objected to this".
* The court decided to release Selahattin Can Uğuzeş and Doğu Demirtaş. The next hearing will be held on July 5th at 14:00.
What is in the indictment?
The Prosecutor's Office prepared an indictment against 7 students, 2 of whom were arrested, on the charge of "inciting the public to hatred and enmity", demanding imprisonment from 1 to 3 years each.
The indictment prepared by the Press Crimes Investigation Bureau of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office regarding the students targeted by the Minister of Interior, Governorate of İstanbul, Head of Religious Affairs Administration, Presidential Spokesperson and Republican People's Party Spokesperson, accused students with "openly inciting the public to hatred and enmity".
Even though the investigation was initiated on the allegation of "publicly insulting the religious values embraced by a section of the people", two students got arrested for "inciting the public to hatred and enmity or defamation".
The indictment also stated that the investigation was initiated upon the "report" of Yeni Şafak newspaper and that the Boğaziçi University LGBTI+ Studies Club was searched by the police within the scope of this investigation.
The indictment also includes statements such as "Images of homosexuality and similar sexual orientations, which are considered as haram and prohibited in Islamic religious literature", "A section of the population called LGBTI+", and "Inciting hatred and enmity among a section with different characteristics in terms of social class in sense of the Muslim citizens who constitute the vast majority of Turkish society”.
The process that started by the Boğaziçi Islamic Studies Club (BİSAK) with a smear campaign over a collage from an exhibition, turned into an intense hate campaign with increasing hate speech and slanders against LGBTI+'s.
The Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu said, "4 LGBT perverts were detained!" and committed hate speech against LGBTI+'s. The Governorate of Istanbul stated that the Boğaziçi University Fine Arts Club and Boğaziçi University LGBTI+ Studies Club were searched too. The Governorate included having the "LGBTI flag" in the Boğaziçi University LGBTI + Studies Club to the report as "LGBTI flags and various posters and banners used in the protests were seized". Even though they did not constitute evidence of any crime, the LGBTI+ flags are taken from the club room by the police.
"We will take legal action against those who commit this disrespect," said Ali Erbaş, President of Religious Affairs Administration, on Twitter.
The rectorate of Boğaziçi University also launched an administrative investigation. In the statement made by the university, it was reported that an administrative investigation was initiated by the Rectorate regarding the said Kaaba image. Melih Bulu, the appointed rector of Boğaziçi University, said the following on his social media account:
“Attacking the holy symbols of Islam by a group of presumptuous people is by no means acceptable. This has no place in Boğaziçi values. A comprehensive investigation has been launched against those responsible for this incident.”
Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül, said, “It is the order of God Almighty; 'keep my house clean from all dirt.' The law cannot tolerate the disrespect against our sacred Kaaba by these people whose hearts are rusted with hatred. An investigation was initiated by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office against this infamous act and a detention order is issued for the perpetrators”.
The statement of Presidency's Communications Director Fahrettin Altun, which he called the protesters as "mad minority", is as follows:
“The main goal of the perverted way of thinking and life that the mad minority is trying to normalize under the pretext of freedom, equality, and human rights is to subvert our generations. Their only motivation is to desecrate our sacred ones. Images in Boğaziçi University are proof of this.
“We will never allow those who try to propagate immorality, insulting the saints, hatred, and terror as freedom. This mad minority with Blind eyes and sealed hearts, has also been condemned in the legitimate conscience of our nation. If we don't prevent your vile actions, then let us be doomed!"
The main opposition party CHP’s Spokesperson Faik Öztrak also targeted the students. Faik Öztrak, the Spokesperson and Vice-Chair of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), also shared a message on Twitter, which also sparked reactions:
"We cannot accept any attack or humiliation targeting the sacred values of humanity. We vehemently condemn this open provocation. We expect the seen and unseen responsible parties to be identified as soon as possible."
Campaigns involving intense hate speech and discrimination have started on Twitter via the tags #BoğazicindelgbtRezaleti (The LGBT Scandal at Boğaziçi) and #KabeKutsalimizdir (Kaaba is Our Sacred). Both tags took place in Turkey’s TT list of Twitter for almost a day.
Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın was among those who posted on social media with the tag #KabeKutsalimizdir:
"Disrespect to our holy Kaaba is neither freedom of expression nor right to demonstrate.
“This heresy will receive the punishment it deserves both before the law and in the righteous conscience.
“Your vile intentions and abusive actions are negligent, deceitful, and frustrating.
In this storm of hate speech, Mil-Diyanet Sen (Union of Religious Affairs Administration Workers) called for a campaign against the LGBTI+'s freedom of expression and organization by saying "We are giving a petition to the Ministry of Interior for the Closure of LGBT Associations". LGBTI + associations were targeted with the image circulating on social media with the signature of Mil-Diyanet Sen.
Two students were arrested, two students were released on condition of judicial control, and one student was released. Two students were arrested on the allegation of "inciting the public to hatred and enmity or humiliation", while the justification of the investigation was the allegation of "public humiliation of the religious values adopted by a section of the population".
A campaign against smear campaigns and hate speech started on Twitter with the hashtag #LGBTİHaklarıİnsanHaklarıdır (LGBTI Rights are Human Rights). Within the scope of the campaign that quickly entered the TT list, many politicians, political parties, artists, trade unions, professional associations and non-governmental organizations also sent tweets of solidarity.
The police attacked the press statement that Boğaziçi Solidarity wanted to make at the south gate of the university "against the trustees, LGBTI+ phobia, student arrests, all anti-democratic practices".
The police blocked the students from gathering and set up a barricade in front of the university gate. Hisarüstü, where the university is located, was blockaded. Armed policemen took positions in the vicinity of the buildings around the school. Police did not allow the students at Boğaziçi University to leave the campus.
After the school was blockaded and the Boğaziçi University students were prevented from going outside by the police, the students gathered around the Rectorate building and shouted "Resign". Students requested a meeting with Melih Bulu. Security personnel inside the campus attacked the students. 159 students were detained in the attacks that continued throughout the day.
A police officer shouting “You insolent, look down” while the students were being detained drew reactions on social media. On Twitter Turkey, hashtags #AşağıBakmayacağız (We will not look down) and #BoğaziçiAblukada (Boğaziçi under siege) entered the TT list.
Meanwhile, it was revealed that the "trustee Rector" Melih Bulu, who caused the protests, shut off the Boğaziçi University LGBTI+ Studies Club. Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun shared the decision, which was not notified to club members, on social media.
According to the decision signed by Melih Bulu, the candidate status of Boğaziçi University LGBTI+ Studies Club, which has been kept as a candidate club for a long time, has been canceled. The reason for this was the exhibition, which was not organized by the club and included works that came through an open call for artworks. In the directive, the exhibition was presented as if it was organized by the club.
Translation: Yiğit E. Korkmaz
Tags: human rights