It has been days since our colleague, disbarred prosecutor İbrahim Gündüz, and his wife drowned in the Aegean Sea after their boat capsized while trying to reach the Kos Islands of Greece.
It has been more than five years since approximately 5000 judges and prosecutors were unfairly and unlawfully deprived of their professions and freedoms in Turkey after the July 15th coup attempt. What happened during this time? What did we experience? What pushed İbrahim Gündüz and his new wife N.G to undertake this dangerous journey that resulted in their deaths?
Let us try to depict this nightmare that we have been living for five years. Close your eyes and imagine…
What would you do if you were in our position? If you were in İ.Gündüz’s position, try to imagine what you would do if you found yourself and your loved ones faced with death in the dark and cold waters of the Aegean on a December night!
After completing their routine work on the day of the coup d’état, they did not know that they would be declared terrorists overnight, that their homes would be searched by the police, that they would find themselves in detention centers by the weekend, that they would be arrested by their colleagues without a single piece of evidence in their files, that they would spend the next five and a half years behind bars and in the end, they did not know that they would spend their days waiting for the injustice to end.
While the Council of Judges and Prosecutors, whose powers were expanded with the declaration of the state of emergency on July 20th, 2016, was dismissing around 5000 judges and prosecutors without providing any individualised or concrete reasons, simultaneously Chief Prosecution Offices were opening investigations against our colleagues on charges of membership of a terrorist organization, and justices of the peace were issuing detention orders just by copybook explanations.
The majority of our arrested colleagues are kept in prisons under inhumane conditions; they have to sleep on the ground because the wards are overcrowded, they are not allowed to utilise any of the social facilities at the prisons, and their contact with their relatives and lawyers are restricted. On the other hand, a group of our colleagues, most of whom are expelled members of the Supreme Court and the Council of State, were kept in solitary cells. Jurists, whose access to the courtyard is limited to one hour a day, are forced to spend years alone stuck between four walls without any human interaction.
The Chief Prosecution Offices started to issue indictments on the grounds of membership to the armed terrorist organization, and accordingly, the assize courts launched the judicial proceedings. Some of our colleagues were released from prisons under bail conditions, such as a ban on leaving the country. Our colleague İbrahim Gündüz, who lost his life in the Aegean, was also among those who were released after 15 months in detention. Although their release brought some moments of happiness, the subsequent convictions and the decisions made by the appeal authorities, ignoring all lawfulness, revealed that the release was temporary and the dungeons waiting at the end of the road were inevitable.
As such, our colleagues, who saw that justice was not coming, had two options in front of them. The first was to wait for the verdicts of conviction to be finalized and go to prison for the execution of their sentences when the time comes. In other words, we can say that at least four -five-six-seven-.. years of their lives would be lived behind bars, the inescapable wire fences and impenetrable walls standing between them and their freedom every day. Spending years without seeing loved ones in concrete wards, on an iron bunk bed, longing for their family and freedom.
Holding back your tears is the hardest thing in the world when you are listening to your child who is looking at you from behind the glass. You are trying not to see the deep sorrow when she tries to give you a daisy that she picked from the countryside with her own tiny hands but can’t. And in her innocence thinks it’s her own fault.
However, there were worse things to come. After days, months, and years that passed without smelling a flower, without being shaded under a tree or even touching the ground, our colleagues Teoman GÖKÇE, Seyfettin YİĞİT, Mustafa ERDOĞAN, died in their cell or a ward or prison ward of a hospital, died awaiting the day they would reunite with their loved ones and their freedom—maybe it meant giving your last breath with all your longing and sadness while waiting for these doors to finally open…
Do you think the other option is more manageable? It was not easy at all! Our colleague İbrahim witnessed this option. He embarked on a journey on a cold winter night with the hope of living freely. He found himself and his wife struggling between the relentless sea waves, ultimately paying the price with both their lives. In the Aegean Sea, two of our other colleagues witnessed the disappearance of their two beloved sons after their tiny bodies slid through their arms among the raging waves. All they wanted was to escape the unjust imprisonment and take refuge in a safe harbor where they could raise their children safely. Our colleague Gülsüm, who passed away after getting sick in a camp in Germany, undertook this difficult journey to prevent her son, who grew up longing for a father, from being left without a mother. She was also a witness of this second option.
We are also witnesses! We witnessed the pain of each of them individually. A part of all of us died. We do not want to witness any more pain and separation, but you know we have only those two options before us if something is not done. Our hopes are gone; there is no time left. There are hundreds of dismissed judges and prosecutors whose case is waiting to be approved at the Court of Cassation in Turkey, and they have only two options.
Which one would you choose? You would not want to be in our position, would you? You cannot take our place anyway; you cannot help it. So please do what you can do. You are also witnesses. Actively say STOP to this injustice and act now because we are DYING!