CHP’s İstanbul Provincial Head Canan Kaftancıoğlu is standing trial today over her social media posts from years ago, and is facing up to 22.5 years in prison. This incident is a new example of the government’s past attempts to disable those opponents that cannot be dealt with. But after June 23, members of the judiciary may be expected to act cautiously and take the changing political dynamics into consideration.
Translation: Melissa Clissold / Subtitles: Egemen Gök
Hello, good day. Today the hearing of the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) provincial head Canan Kaftancıoğlu took place in Istanbul. She has been put on trial for a few social media posts she shared years ago. There are five different charges, a prison sentence of 22.5 years is being talked about and the trial has been postponed to July 18. Why is this trial taking place? Why is this case being opened years later? Because Canan Kaftancıoğlu, as the provincial head in Istanbul, is one of the leading names within the team that made Erdoğan experience a huge defeat. She played a critical role in taking Erdoğan’s and mayors under his endorsement from Istanbul after 25 years. Since becoming a provincial head, Canan Kaftancıoğlu has been a name that has caught a lot of attention within circles of government and even the opposition.
And not a lot of time was needed to understand why she drew in such a reaction. The CHP provincial organisation started working a different way after her. The performance they showed on March 31 – during the campaign, at the ballot boxes – when compared to past examples, it’s truly shocking. And Canan Kaftancıoğlu, on top of this, as someone who was part of this success, was targeted by the judiciary. We know that in Turkey, in the latest periods –cases such as this, especially opened after the July 15 – it’s easy to come up with type of accusations about anyone easily.
So, any sort of crime is trying to be pinned down upon a lot of people. Any sort of accusation can be created by looking at social media posts, family relationships, phone calls and courts accept these accusations easily. And if it’s difficult, then certain secret witnesses – people who no one really know, are found. It’s a continuation of what supporters of Fethullah had done before, but a caricature of it. At least the Fethullah supporters organised conspiracies, they created evidence that didn’t exist; now there is no evidence in most of the cases, there are cases that have been opened just through reasoning. There are a lot of cases that have been invented from incidents which can’t even be considered criminal offences, the Cumhuriyet trial is one of the most striking examples of this.
A lot of cases were opened like this and we see that the government in power is heading towards a method of punishing people through the judiciary that they don’t like, want to punish, people who they are unable to cope politically or who they don’t want to bother with. One of the most striking examples of this in near history is the Cumhuriyet trial. Such as Kadri Gürsel being included in the case despite not having any connection with the management of the newspaper. Of course, this was the same for everyone being put on trial during the Cumhuriyet case; but I personally think that for Kadri especially, it was a call to account. Because there was a state of not enjoying and not answering Kadri’s writing and comments on TV. I think that with previous examples, a lot of journalists, especially Ahmet Altan, are put in jail for a long time as a manner of revenge. When we look at this all, it seems to me as if it is an attempt of those who disagree with the motto “If you can’t beat them, join them”, and instead champion “if you can’t beat them, break them”. Now you see Ahmet Altan, he’s been in jail for years, but he is interestingly, effectively putting up a struggle. We have not seen him take any step backwards, he has not apologised, and he is in some way judging those who are judging him. It wasn’t possible to “beat” him. Not only him; it’s valid for a lot of people.
Why is this happening? This is an indication of how desperate those ruling the country are.
These are unpolitical manners in which those in power, who have stopped creating, developing new policies and have entered a dead end ideologically, have adopted in order to deal with those who criticise and oppose them. It has a very important function in narrowing the political sphere in Turkey – in a negative manner, of course.
But I don’t think that this will last. The results on June 23 has shown us that the crisis of power is only in theory, it is also in practice too. The government is losing, Erdoğan is losing in a tangible way; he lost the big cities, he lost Istanbul and it looks like these losses will increase in following elections. On the other hand, the future of the coalition in power is uncertain; the future of the People’s Allaince is uncertain, the future of the AKP is uncertain. It looks like two new parties will emerge from the AKP: Ali Babacan and Ahmet Davutoğlu both have intentions to form parties. Also, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) suffered in the face of the Good Party (İYİ Parti), one of the winners of the June 23 was also the İYİ party.
I’m trying to say this: After June 23, political balances will begin to change and the government in power will not be able to rule alone or will not be able to rule the country as an AKP-MHP coalition: June 23 was the announcement of this. Therefore, there will be new pursuits. Even if there isn’t an election, a stronger coalition government will be tried to be formed and as a result of this or in the context of marketing of new alliances, one of the first topics that will appear on the agenda is of course the issue of rule of law, the autonomy of the judiciary. The trials that have taken place – the Gezi trial, Osman Kavala, Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak, of course Canan Kaftancıoğlu and many more – will be taken to trial again.
Just how, after the July 15, the cases regarding the supporters of Fethullah were heard again and were dropped and we witnessed the trials of those judging these trials, this period will end. With the ending of this period, at least these trials that were opened for political reasons, for the purpose of ‘breaking those who cannot be beaten’, will abated and in this respect, the government may have to pay compensation to those that it has behaved unjustly towards. There’s no need to be an oracle to say this; when we look at politics in Turkey, when we look at what happened yesterday and what’s happening now, it’s not hard to see that that is where things are heading. But this is of course hurting a lot of people, their freedoms are being taken away from them; families and individuals are being treated unfairly; they are not allowed to go abroad, they are being kept under house arrest, or they are being made to go the police station four or five times a week to sign papers, they are being followed everywhere, job opportunities are also being cutting off for those close to them…
In an authoritarian regime, the ruling powers are using security and judiciary mechanisms to deal with people they cannot cope with. But I don’t think that this authoritarianism can last much longer. I hope and guess that after June 23, all of this will be put into order. And all these people who have supported, legitimised, even informed these unlawful processes – you know one of the most famous sayings of this period “take this, take that” that are being said by chiefs of police at demonstrations; there are reflections of this in civilian life. A lot of people in social media especially are working like informants and are informing the police about others, and a lot of people are being harmed for no reason – these people that have supported these unfair practices that have no relation to rule of law won’t be able to show their faces. And those who do have the face to go out in the open, I believe will be exposed by those who believe in the rule of law.
A lot of people in Turkey, are being kept in jail or put on trial for their political vies, without having even committed a crime. A lot of academics have lost their jobs, freedom, rights. They can’t go abroad etc. But this period is to be closed soon, June 23 showed us this in a very striking manner. Therefore, I’m guessing that members of the judiciary will take up positions that place more importance on objectivity and independence. Because one of the elements that can adapt most quickly to a changing Turkey, is the judiciary. They adapted to authoritarianism before, and now let’s say that I’m guessing and hoping that members of the judiciary will take positions in the face of a Turkey that is heading away from authoritarianism.
That’s all I have to say, have a good day.