Veteran Turkish columnist Ahmet Turan Alkan: I cannot lick the knife that is cutting my throat

Ahmet Turan Alkan

Veteran Turkish columnist and prominent political scientist Ahmet Turan Alkan, who used to write for the Zaman newspaper, at one time Turkey’s most highly circulated newspaper before the Turkish government’s unlawful takeover and closure of it in 2016, said at his last court hearing on Friday: “I cannot lick the knife that is cutting my throat. I do not have Stockholm syndrome, either. As much as I understand, I get annoyed with the government. However, do not expect an apology from me.”

Alkan was arrested with former Zaman columnists Ali Bulaç, Lale Kemal, Mümtaz’er Türköne, Nuriye Akman, Mustafa Ünal and Şahin Alpay on July 30, 2017 after a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The highly esteemed columnist presented his last defence before the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court on Friday as part of a trial of 31 defendants from Zaman.

According tweets from @P24DavaTakip, columnist Alkan, who periodically wrote articles for over 20 years for Zaman, said in his defence: “I am in reproach of the society of which I am a member, too. We, as ordinary people, have never seen such a power struggle in our lives. Most of us have played a role in this crime. However, just a group of journalists who were pushed by the chaos of July 15 [coup bid] is before you. We have been in prison longer than any other writers, ever.”

“None of the institutions of our state was able to find any evidence about the accusations against us during our stay in prison for 23 months,” Alkan said, and added: “Two years of my life have been stolen. We have been treated like social microbes as if we were caught red handed. I say in the words of ordinary people: All these sins belong to you.”

Some excerpts from the historic defence of Ahmet Turan Alkan are as follows: 

“The reason for my anger is not unfairly being in jail. My anger is for the possibility of that the whole mechanism of justice can be a tool for injustice. Even, it has already become. I say, kudos to you Turkish justice. Because, your power is only enough for me.

“Everyone knows that the the claims of “the organization,” “violation of the Constitution” are just pretexts. The reason why I am here is what I wrote on December 17-25 (2013, corruption and bribery scandal). There is no evidence for the charges against me. The prosecutor’s office could have put 10-15 pages of a novel such as Madam Bovary, instead of 15 articles of mine that are used as ground for the accusations. The government had prepared a cold revenge for us. For two years, it has been chewing slowly and enjoying its taste.

“The prosecutor has attached the citations from some internet sites, that I have heard for the first time in my life, to my file. If you will judge me with the aggravated life sentence, you should bring gleaming, squeaky, indisputable proofs, not rumors from the Internet trash.

“If the existence of such a dangerous organisation was known, why did not they act on time? The courts should take accountable those who know (this organisation – Alkan means Gülen movement, if it is a terror organisation as it has been claimed by the government) but not act. If the matter is deception, you have the right to be deceived, but is there no right for this poor writer to be fooled? If you knew everything (about the organisation), why have you been silent for 14 years.

“Our words have been treated by you as if they are the bullets of a machine-gun. Our sentences have been treated by you as if they are napalm bombs. But what kind of communication I had with the putschists? I did not see it in my indictment. Perhaps, these putschist soldiers, pashas (generals), who rented their minds to somebody else, cut the writings of mine 3-4 years ago and recited them every morning and evening like a Hafız (one who memorises whole Quran). Does the prosecution imply that?

Ahmet Turan Alkan

“I am here (in the court) because I tried to defend the rights of the headscarves students while the most famous Islamist academicians were praising the generals during the February 28, 1997 post-modern coup process. I am here because I took a democratic stance during the closure case against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“The trustees confiscated the Zaman newspaper. If it was a terrorist organization, why was the state confiscated it? Is a terrorist organisation a restaurant? The only basis for the accusations directed to me are my articles. However, when I wrote these articles, there was no ‘FETÖ’, not even a ‘parallel state.’ There was only a newspaper. Am I crazy or am I mad? If I knew that there was a terror organisation (as it has been claimed) I would take my hat and quit.

“What I knew and what I were dealing with was just this newspaper (Zaman). There were the editors whom I were sending my articles and they were publishing them. It would be a shame for me if I do not say that the editors were very respectful.

“Is the Constitutional Court a transistor radio that you listen to as you want and that you are shutting its voice as you don’t want to listen to? What is the value of the Constitutional Court (AYM) if you do not implement its decisions? First, I look at the AYM decision and then the indictment, I feel like if I have just come from Paris to Rakka.

“Everyone should hear it once more: This is a political case. It’s a groundless, unlawful and ridiculous file. I am Ahmet Turan Alkan. I am a Zaman columnist. I am dissident. I was not a dissident in the past but now I’m dissenting. I can not lick the knife that cuts my throat. I do not have Stockholm syndrome, either. As much as I could understand, I get annoyed the government. However, do not expect an apology from me.

“According to the prosecutor, I did not write any article criticizing Fethullah Gülen. Now, I can prove that this is not the case. Will you be convinced if I prove it? Why do not you ask someone who works in the Demirören Media Group to criticize the Demirörens?

“My readers still love me. You can ask ‘where could you see your readers?’ In custody. Whenever they see me they come to me. However, I do not forgive the executives of the newspaper because they deserted. They could come and do as Ahmet Turan Alkan did.

“You can punish me as a fool who could not read the spirit of the time, but I will rebel and I will not accept if you sentence me to only one day as a member of the sticky, sluggish FETÖ. I have been accused of being a member of an armed terrorist organisation. But, the argumentation of the prosecutor has not focused on the details such as where the weapons are, where the violence is, or what the organization is like. Article, article, article, always article…

“I met a judge, who used to work on the seventh floor of this courthouse, in the detention center at minus seventh floor of the building. If the judges of a country are going down or going up 14 floors in parallel to changing political conditions, the situation can not be accepted as normal in that country.

“I am who I am. My width, my length, my weight, my height and all is about the man that you see. I do not have any deep and hidden connections. If I have, shame me. My job is writing. I defend what I wrote because they were not written by taking instructions from anybody else. Because, I have no sheikh, I have no disciples.

“I can not even ask my fiercest enemy to seek justice in this situation. Send me my home now, that is enough. I want my acquittal and release.”

Ahmet Turan Alkan’s lawyer Faruk Zorba also said that “It was said that Alkan had never wrote against the organization. My client has hundreds of writings contrary to the political stance of the Gülen movement and we can present them to the court.”

Zorba also said that “Alkan has lost about 30 pounds in prison. He did not mention it himself, but he has health problems. The most serious of all is his disappointment.”

It is common in Turkey for journalists to be investigated and jailed for their work. Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 242 journalists and media workers were in jail as of June 3, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 182 were under arrest pending trial while only 60 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 142 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

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