|Cihan: two years under arrest|
On March 23, once again Cihan Kırmızıgül will be brought before a court in Besiktas. Over two years ago, on a chilly winter morning, Cihan, while waiting for a bus, found himself wrapped up not only in a keffiyeh to keep him warm but also in a court case that has gone on far too long; one that again has proven the Turkish legal system as falling short of protecting the "right of innocence until proven guilty."
All evidence and common sense points to the fact that Cihan had nothing to do with the protesters chanting Kurdish slogans, who clashed with police and threw molotov cocktails targeting a neighborhood market. Rather, he was an innocent bystander who happened to be wearing a keffiyeh, one similar to those who committed the attack. With no other evidence linking him to the crime other than the keffiyeh, Cihan has been held for over two years in solitary confinement charged with taking part in an act of terror. All common sense would lead to the simple understanding that that Cihan was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and certainly the fact that he is of Kurdish origin led to the apparent false charges. Yes, for this he has been held in a F-type solitary cell. If this Kafkaesque scenario was not enough, the prosecutor has called for a 45-year term sentence, if he is found guilty of the crime
Cihan is 23 years old, one of four children, whose family migrated from Adiyaman to Adana, and later came ot study industrial engineering at Galatasaray University. Importantly, many of the Galatasaray faculty have been following the case closely, and have been present at his hearings. I might add that he has no criminal record and apparently is just what he adds up to be: a serious young aspiring bright student, someone who in normal circumstances should be a poster-boy for Turkey's education system: a youngster of Kurdish origin, from a rural background, that despite all the cards stacked up against him reached the top and integrated into one of Turkey's most prestigious public institutions. Truly, this is a tragedy.
Unfortunately, Cihan is joined by about 600 students who have found themselves behind bars awaiting trial. Different than Cihan's case these students were arrested for peaceful protests that they held on university campuses targeting government policies and often disrupting speeches made by politicians. These students are being held on numerous inflated charges, with some facing decades in jail if found guilty.
This week, the two well-known journalists, Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener were released after their 375 days spent in jail on suspicion of being related to the Ergenekon plot. Lets hope that their release marks a change in the Turkish judicial system, and more importantly that the Turkish government take the necessary steps that laws are passed to protect its citizens from such injustices. If Cihan is released on March 23 this will be another step in the right direction.
For more information on the fate of students and professors being held see:
the English website of the Transnational Work Group on Academic Liberty and Freedom of Research in Turkey:
http://gitamerica.blogspot.com/ where you can connect to a site also in Turkish, French, German, and Italian.
and the Turkish site, ran by students: http://www.mechulogrenci.com/basinda-cikanlar