The hearing in the case against Veysi Ermiş, an artist with the Mesopotamian Cultural Centre (MKM), for allegedly spreading propaganda “for the organisation”, was held at the Istanbul Criminal Court No.27 in Çağlayan, Istanbul. Ermiş and his lawyer Irfan Arasan were present at the hearing.
The court asked Ermiş if he had taken part in the Newroz (Kurdish New Year) celebrations and who “Commander Egît”, mentioned in a song, was. Ermiş stated that joining in Newroz celebrations was not a crime, and that he had been charged in relation to flags and posters in the Newroz meeting area, Mezopotamya News Agency reports.
The court asked Ermiş if the posts on his social media account were actually his. Ermiş stated that the posts that were the subject of the accusations had not been written by himself, and denied having links to “the organisation.”
‘Kurdistan has been in existence for thousands of years’
Ermiş’s lawyer Irfan Arasan spoke in his defence at the hearing.
“We don’t accept the charges. The charges say that saying ‘Kurdistan’ is a crime and that it constitutes propaganda in favour of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). Kurdistan has been in existence for thousands of years. The word has always been in use, long before the PKK. It doesn’t constitute any crime.”
He also said that his client is accused in relation to placards and banners that were displayed by the people while he was on the stage.
“You can not accuse him in relation to these,” he said.
Recalling President Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent visit to Batman (Elih) province in southeast Turkey, Arasan said that Erdoğan was greeted there with the song “Batmanê Batmanê”, which includes the phrase “Batman is the rose of Kurdistan”.
Announcing the verdict after a five-minute break, the court announced that Ermiş had committed the crime of “spreading propaganda” because the songs he performed mentioned the words “guerrilla” and “Kurdistan”. He was sentenced to 18 months and 20 days in prison.
Court: We’ll let you off
“We’ll let you off once,” said the president of the court to Ermiş.
“When we say we’ll let you off, we’re suspending the sentence. You can sing in Kurdish, it is OK. But no, if you say ”guerrilla”, you’re talking about the PKK. Singing in Kurdish is not forbidden. There’s even a channel called TRT ŞEŞ [Turkish state TV in Kurdish]. But we do not accept “guerilla” or “Kurdistan” within Turkey’s borders. You can say it in Iraq. You may go now.”