‘He’s going to ask for acquittal’. My lawyer walks over to me from his place in the court room and sits down on the chair next to mine. He whispers it in my ear, while the prosecutor continues his plea. ‘He hasn’t said it yet, but I know it from the way he is developing his plea. This will be an acquittal.’ And indeed, a few minutes later the prosecutor demands acquittal. I have to wait till Monday for the final verdict, but I start to smile: the court case against me ends without conviction.
The whole ordeal started on 6 January, when I was taken into custody for a few hours, followed by the decision of the prosecutor to charge me with ‘propaganda for a terrorist organisation’. My Istanbul lawyer Ramazan Demir has been soothing me from the start: ‘Nowhere in your articles and columns have you written anything illegal, so don’t worry.’
And I didn’t. Of course the law prescribes one to five years imprisonment for the ‘crime’ I supposedly committed, but the chance I would really get convicted has been small from the beginning. The evidence consisted of sentences picked from my columns for Diken.com.tr, totally taken out of context and labelled as ‘propaganda for the PKK’ with a totally illogical reasoning. As well, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has once again denounced the law used against me only a few months ago. The law, the Court ruled, is too vague to be used in practice.
Just as innocent
On the other hand, in Turkey you can never be sure the logical judicial line of thinking will be followed. Turkey is no democracy and the judiciary is not independent. Kurdish colleagues of mine have been convicted based on the same law, although they were just as innocent as I am. And rulings of the ECHR are not always carried out by Turkey, even though judges are obliged to do so.
So I was a bit nervous when I entered the court room just after nine a.m. on Wednesday. The court room had room for dozens of suspects: often mass trials are held here against Kurdish journalists, administrators, politicians, lawyers, MP’s and activists. I was allocated a chair in the front row, right in front of my three judges and the prosecutor. My lawyer was in the lawyer section to my right. A bit later there were suddenly four lawyers: three local lawyers had joined the defence out of solidarity.
Read my lips
‘Team Geerdink’ – a group of people supporting me, consisting of my parents, fellow journalists and friends and activists from Diyarbakir and the wider region, and representatives from organisations like Amnesty International, the Dutch and International Journalists Union and the Dutch embassy in Ankara – were seated in the public gallery at the back of the room. They couldn’t hear a thing of what was happening at the front. I asked the judge why his microphone wasn’t turned on. ‘I apologize, it’s broken’. So at the moment it became clear that the prosecutor would ask for acquittal, I turned around to team Geerdink, smiled and put my thumb up. With my lips I shaped the words ‘Good news’, and hoped they could read my lips.
It was a bit of an anti-climax when after the short break the three judges decided to leave the final verdict to the chief judge – they were just standing in for him. Only on Monday will it become definite.
It’s a relief, of course: I can concentrate on my work again. But I don’t see the expected acquittal on Monday as justice prevailing. I see it as a coincidental good outcome of the total randomness which is typical of the Turkish judicial system.