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Turkey: Ferhat Tunc’s case sent to higher court

17 September 2006
At a criminal court hearing on 15 September 2006, musician Ferhat Tunç and a group of human right activists and reporters who might face up to three years in prison, had their case sent to a higher courtBy N. Galen

Musician Ferhat Tunç and a group of human right activists and reporters took part in a human rights campaign to rescue private Coskun Kirandi who had been kidnapped by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – an armed group considered a terrorist organisation by the EU and the United States as well as by the Turkish authorities. The kidnapping happened on 11 July 2005 in the city of Tunceli – a city in South-East Turkey.

A hearing was heard on 15 September 2006 in Tunceli Criminal Court. The court decided that it did not have jurisdiction over the charges (that Tunc and his co-defendants were making propaganda for the PKK) brought by the Tunceli prosecutor because the Tunceli Court is not, in the Court’s view, competent in such cases.

The Tunceli Criminal Court has therefore decided to send the case to the appropriate higher court which is the Malatya Criminal Higher Court. Malatya is a bigger city in South East Turkey. This is a court competent to judge more serious criminal cases, including terrorist-related offenses.

The change in competence arises from a change in the law which transfers the alleged crime from a normal criminal offence to a terrorist-related offence

It is not clear how Ferhat Tunç can be accused of making propaganda for PKK at the same time as he helped rescuing someone who had been kidnapped by PKK. But Turkish prosecutors apparently don’t have to be clear to initiate a prosecution under such “cover-all laws” as Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code which is often used to prosecute human rights defenders, journalists and other members of civil society peacefully expressing their dissenting opinion. Article 301, on the denigration of Turkishness, the Republic, and the foundation and institutions of the State, was introduced with the legislative reforms of 1 June 2005.

The next stage in this process is for the Malatya Criminal Higher Court to hear the case which will now be prosecuted by the Malatya Criminal Higher Court chief prosecutor, and according to the Turkish legal system a case once lodged by any prosecutor can only be withdrawn or dismissed by an appropriate court – not by the original or any other prosecutor.

As of now the Malatya Criminal Higher Court has yet to announce a date for the new hearing which will be probably when the case is finally heard.

 

 
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