International solidarity pays off! Siar given reprieve!

Siar Risvanoglu, founding member of the Revolutionary Workers’ Party (DIP), has been accorded a stay of the execution of his punishment by the so-called Assize Court with Special Powers of the district of Adana, Turkey. Siar had been invited to speak on Roj TV, a TV station that broadcasts from Brussels and is run by the Kurdish diaspora in Europe, on May Day 2010. Upon his return to Turkey, the public prosecutor charged him with “supporting the organisation”, meaning the PKK, the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan, which has been waging a guerrilla war in Turkey since 1984. Siar was convicted to two years and four months by the court last June. He appealed and the case was sent to the High Court of Cassation in Ankara.

It was at this point that the DIP organised a campaign, a petition to be signed by the representatives of the workers’ movements and of left parties, intellectuals, representatives of the organised youth etc. Thanks to the sensitivity of our friends and comrades, the campaign was an unambiguous success, with hundreds of people signing the petition from a very varied geographic span (Russia, India, the USA, Britain, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, Greece, Italy, and Spain).

Among the signatories, there were those who had run in elections for the presidency of their respective countries and received respectable results (Argentina and Venezuela), political personalities who had formerly served as government members (Italy), current and former members of parliament (Greece, Italy, Argentina, Brazil and Peru), scholars, intellectuals working in different disciplines, trade unionists and cadres from the workers’ movement in several countries, leaders and representatives of revolutionary socialist parties, youth leaders etc.

All concurred to “reject the notion of crime of opinion, condemn all attempts at intimidating Turkish intellectuals and oppositionists for display of solidarity with the Kurdish people and demand an end to the persecution of Şiar Rişvanoğlu and the dropping of all charges against him.”

The latter demand has not been met by the court fully, but the Damocles’ sword has been at least temporarily removed from above his head. As a matter of fact, the High Court of Cassation, after having recently reviewed the case, sent it back to the local court, and the local court decided that Siar was going to be accorded reprieve from this punishment for three years, at the end of which all charges would be dropped. The condition is that he should not breach the same article of the Turkish Criminal Code during those three years. This decision was based on a provision in one of the many “reforms” the Turkish state has recently had recourse to from time to time in criminal law.

The statement that our comrade Siar made to the court during this last hearing should nevertheless be reported. After the public prosecutor asked for the stay of execution, our comrade was asked for his opinion and said the following. “Because” he said, “the basis of my conviction is ‘propaganda for the organisation’, meaning the PKK, which is totally contrary to facts in my case because I am a founder of a socialist party, the DIP, which has its own policies concerning the Kurdish question in Turkey, policies that are quite often at odds with those of the PKK, I will not object to the court’s decision if I am accorded a reprieve. However, had it been on the basis of a true fact, for instance for my saying that ‘the Ottoman state engaged in genocide against the Armenians in 1915’, then I would not accept a stay of execution, but would rather fight for acquittal.”

Siar is going to go on fighting for the emancipation of the working class from capitalist exploitation and emancipation of the Kurdish people from the yoke of the oppression of the Turkish state in line with the policies of the DIP. He will fight for the rest of the people oppressed by the practices that the signatories of the petition in solidarity with him have shown solidarity with, very much aware that this act of internationalist solidarity has seriously helped the final result .

Below we provide, first, the text of the petition and, further on the names and positions of all the signatories:

Stop the persecution of Şiar Rişvanoğlu!

Stop repression of solidarity with the Kurds!

Not contented with denying the rights of the Kurdish people, attacking its organisations, and keeping thousands of Kurdish activists in prison for years even before they have been sentenced, the Turkish state is also trying to intimidate Turkish intellectuals and oppositionists who display solidarity with the Kurds. Şiar Rişvanoğlu is the last in a long line of Turkish intellectuals and socialists to be threatened with a prison sentence simply because of displaying solidarity with the struggle of the Kurdish people for freedom. He was convicted to two years and four months of prison for having spoken his mind on May Day 2010 on Roj TV, a television channel based in Brussels, Belgium, run by the Kurdish movement in exile. The decision was handed down by one of the so-called “Courts of Assize with Special Powers”, which are merely a continuation in disguise of the notorious State Security Courts of the earlier period. The case is now before the Court of Cassation, whose decision will finalise the sentence.

One of the absurdities of the court decision lies in the fact that Rişvanoğlu was convicted for having conducted “propaganda for the organisation”, the word “organisation” in this context meaning the PKK, the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan, the party that has been waging guerrilla war against the Turkish army since 1984. Being a founder and a spokesperson of another party, the Revolutionary Workers’ Party (DIP), a party that has clearly been critical of the political line of the PKK for the last decade or so, while at he same time it has defended all the rights and demands of the Kurdish people, it is absurd that Rişvanoğlu should be accused of engaging in propaganda for the PKK.

We the undersigned reject the notion of crime of opinion, condemn all attempts at intimidating Turkish intellectuals and oppositionists for display of solidarity with the Kurdish people and demand an end to the persecution of Şiar Rişvanoğlu and the dropping of all charges against him.

Who is Şiar Rişvanoğlu

Şiar Rişvanoğlu is an attorney at law who has defended many well-known defendants in cases of “crimes of opinion”, including the late Dino Frisullo, an Italian activist who was persecuted by the Turkish state precisely for having acted in solidarity with the Kurdish people. Rişvanoğlu was also counsel in the Hrant Dink case, in which the people responsible for the assassination of this well-known Armenian activist were being tried. He has also been heavily involved with the legal defense of all kinds of Kurdish rank and file activists. He is a writer on social, political and cultural matters, having published scores of articles in different journals and newspapers, with special emphasis on the Kurdish question.

In addition to his legal activism and writing, he is also a founding member of and a spokesperson for the Revolutionary Workers Party (DIP). In the local elections of 2009, Rişvanoğlu was candidate of a broad alliance of Turkish and Kurdish parties and movements for the metropolitan mayor of Adana, the fourth largest city of Turkey and a major centre of industry and agro-industry. He received close to 10 per cent of the popular vote.

Türkçe: Şiar Rişvanoğlu’nun cezası ertelendi