The first hearing in the trial of 205 people charged with being members or active supporters of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK)---an umbrella organization which includes the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and related organizations---began today in Istanbul but was stopped by the judges when several of those charged responded to questions by the court in Kurdish. Some 193 of the 205 people charged attended the hearing. Of these people, 132 have been jailed while awaiting trial.
After two of the accused responded to one of the judges’ questions in Kurdish, the judge said the suspects could not be identified because they “have spoken in a language that is not Turkish.” Defense lawyers insisted that those charged wanted to defend themselves in Kurdish and asked that a translator should be assigned by the court. One of the defense lawyers pointed out that one of his clients had merely spoken in his mother tongue. It was also pointed out that 20 million people in Turkey speak Kurdish. The judges reviewed the defense demands and announced that the request was denied. They insisted that those charged speak Turkish in court.
It seemed clear to many activists and supports of those arrested that the legal Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and its political activities are the real target of the trial. Turkey has abolished specially authorized courts on paper but trials of those suspected of being KCK members or PKK supporters will continue and will be used to attack the BDP, the unions and the left. Most of the charges against the 205 are for legal political party activities.
Meanwhile, an Ankara court accepted indictments against 15 women who are members of various unions, including the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK), over charges of being members of or abetting the KCK. According to the indictment, the women joined unions as part of a plan designed by the PKK. International protests quickly followed the indictment.