Three Kurdish prisoners were released from a prison in Turkey’s northwestern Bolu province on Wednesday, more than 19 years after the State Security Court (DGM) that convicted them was disbanded.
Mehmet İnal, Musa Şanak and Adnan Karakaş were convicted to life in prison for the crime of “attempting to separate part of state-controlled territory from state rule” in 1992 and 1993, when the DGMs were still in use.
Life sentences qualify for release on parole after 24 years served, but all three Kurdish men were denied release over issues such as not being mindful of water consumption in prison and not attending prison-organised religious activities, Mezopotamya Agency reported.
Şanak was 29 years old when he was arrested in 1993. Karakaş, then 30, was also arrested in 1993 while İnal was arrested a year earlier. Karakaş survived skin cancer behind bars.
“Other friends are not released despite having served their sentences,” Karakaş told reporters at the prison gates. “They have been trying to make us kneel for 31 years. They consider all of our people and our nation to be criminals. This oppression must end.”
The DGMs that convicted the three men were established after a military coup in 1961, and were present only in eight of Turkey’s then-80 provinces: Starting with the capital Ankara, there were DGMs in Istanbul, Izmir, Konya, Kayseri, Diyarbakır (Amed), Erzincan (Erzingan), and Malatya (Meletî). The courts had one military and two civilian judges each.
DGMs were shut down for the first time in 1976 after the Constitutional Court ruled them to be against the separation of powers. Civilian judges at the DGMs were appointed directly by governments, 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 ministers in cabinet.
They were re-established after the 1980 military coup.
Military judges were removed from DGMs in 1999. In the same year their authority was increased to cover State of Emergency regions, which covered the Kurdish-majority east and southeast at the height of Turkey’s conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Many Kurdish politicians faced trial at DGMs, including Democracy Party (DEP) MPs Hatip Dicle, Leyla Zana, Orhan Doğan and Selim Sadak, who were sentenced to 15 years each over terrorism charges in 1994. DEP’s successor People’s Democracy Party (HADEP) member Faysal Akcan was sentenced to 22 years in prison for taking down a Turkish flag at a party congress in 1996.
Turkish sociologist İsmail Beşikçi, a staunch supporter of Kurdish rights, faced more than 100 lawsuits at DGMs over the years, and served time behind bars for most of the 1990s. Another Turkish sociologist, Pınar Selek, also faced trial at an Istanbul DGM for a 1998 explosion in the Spice Bazaar. Selek, whose work focuses on disadvantaged sections of society including Kurdish migrants in the megacity, was acquitted of all charges on four occasions, but continues to face prosecution after a fifth reversal of the acquittal.
DGMs were finally shut down by a constitutional amendment in 2004, but were replaced by Special Authority Courts.