Kurdish political prisoner Ramazan İldem, who was arrested in Turkey’s Kurdish majority province of Mardin (Mêrdîn) in 1993 and whose planned release in July was prevented by the Prison Administration and Monitoring Committee, was freed on Thursday after 30 years of imprisonment.
İldem was welcomed by a crowd including members of the Association for Solidarity with the Families of Prisoners and Convicts (TUHAY-DER), journalists and representatives from the pro-Kurdish Green Left Party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the Democratic Regions Party (DBP), who greeted him with the traditional Kurdish dance, the “govend”.
“I hope that this warm welcome is just the beginning,” İldem said outside the airport. “Our expectation is that we will continue to organise and unite more and more every day. Let’s create a strong bond. It is our duty and let’s make it a success with great love,” he said.
İldem, who was sent to prison in 1993 at the age of 22, was sentenced to life imprisonment by Turkey’s notorious State Security Court (DGM), where he was tried for “disturbing the unity and integrity of the state”.
Life sentences are eligible for parole after 24 years served in Turkey, but Kurdish political prisoners have generally been denied parole.
Turkey’s infamous State Security Court
Established after a military coup in 1961, the DGMs were first closed in 1976 after the Constitutional Court ruled that they violated the separation of powers. The civilian judges of the DGMs were appointed directly by the government, which at the time of their establishment was a military junta, while the military judges were appointed by the Prime Minister and one of the cabinet ministers.
They were reinstated after the 1980 military coup
Military judges were removed from the DGMs in 1999. In the same year, their powers were extended to cover the emergency regions, which included the Kurdish-majority east and south-east at the height of the Kurdish conflict.
Many Kurdish politicians and activists have been tried in DGMs. The DGMs were finally abolished by a constitutional amendment in 2004, but replaced by Special Authority Courts.