PINAR SELEK :
13 YEARS OF PERSECUTION
WHY WAS PINAR SELEK CHOSEN AS A TARGET ?
Pınar Selek, who focuses her sociological studies on people who have been excluded by the society such as street children and transsexuals, the construction of the mechanisms of hegemony and the peace struggle, and also supports her academic work with activism, was chosen as a target when she started her research on the Kurdish Issue in 1997. Under the conditions of that period, her interviewing the parties of that conflict in order to understand and recount the conditions of the war and why peace couldn’t be made was not only brave but also dangerous. In this process, Pınar Selek, who was taken under custody by the Police Department on July 11th 1998, was also heavily tortured and her research was confiscated because she didn’t give the names of those she had interviewed. Fake reports were made up, their contents completely bogus. In these reports, it was portrayed as if the explosives and materials, which had all been destroyed before she was even taken under custody, had been found in the art atelier she had started for the street children.
In the frame of the period around 1998, when many conspiracies and “memorandums” kept coming up, Pınar Selek was chosen as the victim. Her example was used as a symbol in order to intimidate all intellectuals and researchers who would dare focus on this issue. Selek’s decision to not give up, but concentrate on working for peace, on the women’s movement and academic research caused an intensification of this conspiracy, carried out through threats, assaults and extensions of the judicial process.
HOW HAS THE CASE DEVELOPED ?
With regards to the first case which was brought to court charging Pınar Selek with “acting as a receiver or accomplice of the organization ”, the date of the crime scene investigation report revealed that the explosives claimed to be found in the street children’s art atelier had already been in the hands of the police from beforehand, and fake documents had been prepared. However, this time what happened was that while she was in the Ümraniye jail, Pınar Selek found out from the television that she was being associated with the bombing of the Spice Bazaar, which had happened a month and a half ago. The conspiracy was rolling on, growing gradually in the process.
Yet Pınar Selek, who was taken under custody two days after the explosion in the Spice Bazaar on the 9th of July 1998 while a large-scale investigation was being conducted about the explosion, wasn’t asked one single question about the explosion. This situation revealed once again that Pınar Selek was face to face with a conspiracy that was trying to be landed upon her.
The Police Crime Scene Investigation reports and the Expert Reports of the Criminal Police Laboratory dated the 13th and 14th of July, which were prepared right after the explosion in the Spice Bazaar said that there were no findings indicating a bomb. In the Police Crime Scene Investigation Final Report, dated July 20th 1998 it also said “There are no findings with regards to a bomb.” The only basis for the accusation was the testimony Abdülmecit Öztürk gave to the police, in which he said “I placed the bomb in the Spice Bazaar together with Pınar Selek.” This second court case which had been brought up against Pınar Selek upon these charges was later merged with the first case.
In the hearing on December 22nd 1998, with regards to the case against Öztürk and Selek charging them with planting a bomb in the Spice Bazaar, Abdülmecit Öztürk and the other witnesses declared that they had been tortured very heavily, and that, actually, they didn’t even know Pınar Selek.
The report dated 15.06. 2000 by Reşat Apak , Director of İstanbul University Analitical Chemistry Department stated that “The Public Prosecutor’s report is not scientific and is inclined to mislead the Court. Nitrocellulose can be found in various materials, it is not a proof that there is a bomb.” In the report of July 27th 2000 by Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine Forensic Department also revealed that the Public Prosecutor’s report is not scientific and “None of the facts are in accordance with the wounding patterns through bomb explosion. In the meanwhile, on the 21st of December 2000, the reports of three expert professors appointed by the court confirmed the fact that the explosion had been caused by a gas leak and not a bomb.
After 2.5 years, on December 22nd 2000, the Local Court discharged Pınar Selek. Upon this discharge, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Istanbul Police Department of the period sent a letter to the court, dated 19.04.2001, saying that this discharge had greatly disturbed them. About three years after the explosion, these very same institutions also got a new report put into the file, which had no signature or date and said that “the explosion had been caused by a bomb,” even though they were not parties to the case and the Court had not made any such demands. They thus demanded the Court to send the case over to the experts once again. Even though the Court did not accept the report as legal evidence, the case file sent to the experts once again following the demands of these institutions. At this point, judicial independence had blatantly been interfered with.
It was also revealed that the report dated 04.07.2002, prepared with opinions by members of the gendarmerie who had no expertise whatsoever in the determination of the origins of an explosion had been prepared with much obscuring of evidence. The expert report appointed by the court on 10.07.2002 confirmed the gas explosion, while the final report dated 21.11.2002, prepared by the Middle East Technical University Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department via “visual processing technology” which was placed into the file, declared that the explosion seems in accordance with the report stating the gas leakage and also revealed that the explosion had happened in the oven.
On 08.06.2006 the Chamber 12 of Istanbul High Criminal Court gave its first acquittal of Pınar Selek, saying that, with regards to the Spice Bazaar explosion, “no certain and believable evidence that requires punishment could be found.” This decision was revoked by the 9th Penal Department of the Supreme Court on 17.04.2007, on the basis that “no verdict had been given.”
After Pınar Selek was tried once again, on 23.05.2008 the Chamber 12 of Istanbul High Criminal Court repeated its previous decision, giving an acquittal for Pınar Selek with regards to charges about the Spice Bazaar explosion. Also, with regards to the charges of aiding and abetting, it decided to “rescind the case due to the lapse of time.” In the verdict by the court, the accusations brought against Pınar saying that she was the member of an organisation were also found not to be credible. Thus Pınar Selek was acquitted for the second time.
All these years, the one testimony taken from Abdülmecit Öztürk under torture and without the assistance of a lawyer has been the sole direct link between Pınar Selek and the accusation of bombing the Spice Bazaar. Also, since there have been no appeals against Öztürk, the acquittal he was given with regards to the Spice Bazaar explosion has been confirmed. Yet, somehow a life sentence is still demanded for Pınar Selek based on Öztürk’s testimony.
The Chief Prosecutor of the Supreme Court objected against the annulment of the acquittal by the Criminal Department of the Supreme Court Chamber 9 to the Supreme Court General Assembly for Criminal Matters, asking for a confirmation of this acquittal. On February 9th, 2010 the Supreme Court General Assembly for Criminal Matters (abbreviated as YCGK in Turkish) rejected the Chief Prosecutor’s objection with 17 votes against 6, asking for an aggravated life sentence for Pınar Selek.
WHAT POINT ARE WE AT RIGHT NOW ?
On 9th of February, 2011, the Istanbul High Criminal Court Chamber 12 resisted the reversal given to its acquittal by the Supreme Court General Assembly for Criminal Matters and gave Pınar Selek an acquittal for the third time. With this final acquittal, the illegality which has been continuing for all these years became, once again, blatantly and painfully obvious.
But the public prosecutor of the Istanbul High Criminal Court Chamber 12 appealed against the acquittal at the Supreme Court Criminal General Assembly very next day after the acquittal. The public prosecutor did not declare his reasoning on his appeal against the acquittal yet. He will prepare his appeal with detailed reasoning after the court gives its’ full acquittal decision with reasons. Now, Supreme Court Criminal General Assembly will judge once again about the case against Pınar Selek on Spice Bazaar after the completion of all proceedings.
After the third aquittal of Pınar Selek concerning Spice Bazaar explosion, the court called Pınar Selek in May, 2011 to take her testimony on the ruling of Supreme Court General Assembly for Criminal Matters. The testimony was just a proceeding as she has already acquitted for the third time. Despite the acquittal, the public prosecutor requested Pınar Selek to be arrested immediately and prohibition to be putted against her from traveling abroad. The court denied the prosecutor’s request but his request showed that the danger she faces never ends.
At the last hearing on 28th of September, 2011 of the case, the Istanbul High Criminal Court Chamber 12 delayed the trial since the other suspects did not give their testimony on the ruling abroad of Supreme Court General Assembly for Criminal Matters yet. The court has to take all suspects' testimonies before giving decision on the ruling of Supreme Court General Assembly for Criminal Matters. The next hearing will be on 7th of March, 2012.
In the meanwhile, the Überleben Treatment Center for Victims of Torture prepared a special expert report dated August 2010, thereby officially confirming the torture Pınar Selek was subjected to under custody and the effects this left on her. This case, being so very long and unjust, has only furthered the victimization of Pınar Selek. It has therefore already been taken to the European Court of Human Rights as a precaution, demanding re-trial and indemnity, due to all the torture, the unjust legal proceedings and the disregard towards the freedom of expression. In the detailed ruling of the Supreme Court General Assembly for Criminal Matters the case has not been summarized in a correct and just manner as the arguments of the defense aren’t in it. There are many illegalities and falsehoods, and all of these along with the method of taking testimonies during the investigation, the way objections to the irregularities were never discussed and were completely disregarded, and the fact that a verdict was being given against Pınar Selek based on charges which were neither legal nor scientific demonstrates once again how this case is a not a legal one, but a political one.
When the illegalities in the case and the overt interventions to and pressures on the court were added on to the malfunctions in the Turkish judicial system, Pınar Selek faced very serious violations of her rights. Pınar Selek’s legal struggle has been watched with great sensibility by the public, and she has been supported by many institutions, organizations and intellectuals nationally and internationally. Today, Pınar Selek’s case is seen by the public as a symbol of the demand for justice.