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Kemal Kutan and Søren Kam
Double standards of the German authorities
Kemal Kutan and Søren Kam both live in southern Germany.
They both have pending requests for extradition from Germany.
But here the similarity ends.
While Søren Kam, is described by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre as one of the most wanted Nazi war criminals, Kemal Kutan is a known political leader of the revolutionary left in Turkey. While the Danish government wants Germany to extradite Søren Kam so that he can be tried for the murder of the anti-Nazi Danish newspaper editor Carl Henrik Clemmensen, the Turkish government wants Kemal Kutan extradited to face trial on charges of ‘High Treason’.
Whereas Søren Kam lives with his family members in relative freedom in a Bavarian village, Kemal Kutan is held in a deportation prison (UPDATE see link on the line below) where his sisters are searched and even have to remove their watches before being allowed to see him. Kemal Kutan is now free, but still in danger
Kemal Kutan, is from a Kurdish and Alevi family. His hometown Dersim is famous for the brutal oppression its Kurdish and Armenian population faced from the Turkish national project – and also for its resistance. Kemal Kutan was first arrested in 1979 - when he was just 14. Since then he has been targeted by the military police and spent many years in the torture cells that are Turkey's prisons. The last time that he was arrested was in 1990 when, while working as a reporter for his political journal ‘Halkin Demokrasisi’ (at the 1st May demonstration), he witnessed the police shooting arbitrarily into the crowd resulting in several people being wounded (Today April 2008 same it true specially if you are a Kurd - See). Again he was imprisoned – this time for one year. After his release, although he continued to work for his journal, due to the increasing repression, he was obliged to go into hiding to avoid being arrested.
In 2007, as the rapid rise in violent right-wing nationalism made his existance in Turkey precarious he fled to Germany. Kemal Kutan was arrested on October 29, 2007 while travelling by train from Stuttgart to Donaueschingen. Since then, he had been in detention in southern Germany, due to the Warrant demanded by the Turkish state for his extradition. (see: Letter from a Sister )
There is another difference between the situation faced by Søren Kam and Kemal Kutan. Whereas, if extradited, Søren Kam will face the legal system in Denmark, which has similar general standards to that of Germany, Kemal Kutan will face something quite different.
As Human Rights Watch states:
‘Prominent political trials have been marred by the use of incriminating testimony apparently extracted under torture or duress, and judges' refusal to comply with defence requests to call witnesses, put questions to witnesses, and subpoena significant evidence. A significant example in this respect is the retrial of Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Orhan Dogan and Selim Sadak, four Kurds, formerly members of the Turkish parliament, who were sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment in 1994 for supporting an armed organization. In July 2001 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that their original trial had been unfair (Zana v. Turkey (1999)) because it was held in a State Security Court in which one of the judges was a military officer. A new trial was initiated following the removal of military judges from the state security court bench, but on April 21, 2004, the Ankara State Security Court returned an identical verdict. According to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), which closely monitored the trial throughout, the trial was “a flawed process. There was no presumption of innocence, the defence was not treated equally with the prosecution and the independence of the court is questionable at best.”
Regarding the 2004 trial, the ICJ expressed concerns over infringements of the presumption of innocence, lack of continuity in the judges’ panel, inhuman and degrading treatment of defendants on the way to and from the court, and pointed out that there are various informal and formal channels by which the government or security forces might influence the court. The ICJ reported serious inequality of arms between the defence and the prosecution in court. For example, the judges refused to call and examine any witnesses proposed by the defence for much of the trial. When ten defence witnesses were eventually called, the defence was not permitted to put questions to them but rather they were examined by the judge. On the other hand, all witnesses called by the prosecution were called by the judges, but examined directly by the prosecution. The judges also prevented the defence from adducing relevant evidence and failed to disclose material evidence against the accused. For example, the prosecution presented to the court a Turkish translation of a supposedly incriminating conversation recorded in Kurdish. This was a key piece of evidence, but until the trial started the prosecution did not disclose any of this material, and never supplied the defence with a copy of the original conversation. The defence never had any means of testing the prosecution witness’s claim that the voices on the tape were those of the defendants, nor any opportunity to test whether the Turkish was an accurate translation of the original Kurdish.’
Kemal Kutan will face quite a different punishment regime in Turkey than Søren Kam would in Denmark. Kemal Kutan has already spent a total of six years in Turkish prisons – it is clear that the Turkish ‘security forces’ are familiar with him. It is therefore very likely that he will face torture and ill treatment again.
In fact in an open letter to the Dutch government appealing not succumb to the Turkish extradition order against Nuriye Kesbir, Human Rights Watch argued in May 2004:
‘..If the intelligence and security forces apply their traditional methods of torture and ill-treatment to extract this information then, once Ms. Kesbir is in their hands, there is nothing that the Turkish government or Turkish courts could do to prevent such abuses from taking place. …Moreover, if convicted, Ms. Kesbir would serve her sentence in a prison system that is riddled with problems. …. As documented in a 2001 Human Rights Watch report, Small Group Isolation in F-type Prisons and the Violent Transfers of Prisoners to Sincan, Kandira and Edirne Prisons on December 19, 2000, F-type prisons were designed to impose a regime of intense isolation and sensory deprivation…’ (see letter)
Despite the fact that the Turkish government accused Nuriye Kebir with serious charges and applied massive pressure, the long and hard campaign to defend her was succesful and the Dutch government relented and freed her.
Recently the case of Søren Kam has been the cause of much international controversy. The German authorities that are responsible for deciding on the case would resent the implication that sympathy for fascism plays a part in the refusal to extradite Kam to Denmark. They would no doubt argue that safeguards that are provided by German legal system that decided on Kam’s case express the liberal nature of the system. Further they would say that this liberal character of the post-war German legal system is an important consequence of a Germany that had learnt the bitter lessons of fascism.
Indeed, it is these anti-fascist values in the German legal system that that are being tested in the case of Kemal Kutan.
We are not directly comparing Germany during the Nazi period with contemporary Turkey. For one thing Germany came under the control of fascism when it was in severe economic crisis and succumbed to the Nazi’s prescription of rapid militarisation and imperial conquest. Clearly, Turkey is not in a comparable economic situation. But it is also clear that the rapidly rising Turkish nationalism of the recent period has moved many respected intellectuals in Turkey to observe characteristics reminiscent of Germany in the 1930’s. Recently (on the 15th January), in Bremen, Erdal Dogan, the Turkish Human Rights lawyer and a personal friend of Hrant Dink, described the background situation that led him and others to think in this way. He showed how the murder of Hrant Dink, the torture and murder of Christians in Malatya and the hatred against the Kurds and other ethnic groups is connected to the rapidly rising insular Turkish nationalism. At the press conference called ‘The murder of Hrant Dink and freedom of opinion in Turkey’ he described the depth of the problem, for example, how a group of school children in a week-long project painted a Turkish flag with drops of their blood and handed it over to the Chief of Staff of the Army - who praised this act with the words “My Children, My People.”
When we (IMRV Bremen), asked Mr. Dogan whether he thinks that the German government should accept extradition orders by the Turkish government – he said: ‘…with respect to Turkey, it has to be taken to account that torture is still used as method - it has not been abolished yet in Turkey. The prison itself has become like a torture chamber, there are new types of prisons now, the F-type-prisons – a very cruel kind of imprisonment. There is not only a problem in the judicial system, how the cases are conducted, there is also a problem with the execution of judgements. As mainly political activists are imprisoned in these F-type-prisons, such prisons can be viewed as torture in itself. As long as these bad conditions in the judicial system are not corrected, all these extraditions should not happen - that is my point of view.’
Several human rights organisations including Amnesty International have detailed the torture of prisoners in Turkey. Turkey, in its bid to join the EU has made proclamations that it is committed to improve its human rights record. But even if there are sections of the political structure in Turkey that are opposed to torture – in practice, human rights organisations have documented that the security apparatus operates with a high degree of informal autonomy. According to the Human Rights lawyer Erdal Dogan the situation has become worse during the recent period - not better.
In January 2007, the assassination of Hrant Dink, the well-known editor of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper ‘Agos’, brought to international attention the rise of the right-wing nationalism in Turkey. Further, during the recent period, the exposure in the sinister fascistic organisation - known as ‘Ergenekon’ - brought to international view the ‘deep state’ or the ‘state within a state’ in Turkey. For the crime of ‘insulting Turkishness’ Ergenekon had included on its hit list Hrant Dink, the Nobel Price winning writer Orhan Pamuk and the charismatic Kurdish politician Leyla Zana. The recent Government action against some powerful individuals for their connection to Ergenekon has been headline news in Turkey recently. But as Irfan Bozan, who had followed the Ergenekon story for the privately owned NTV 24-hour news channel is quoted as saying (on the BBC website), "At first it does look like an attempt to crack down on the deep state at last. But this is not a real challenge to those forces. This is an attack on those who are anti-government."
The Indian author Arundhati Roy relates how on the day she arrived in Istanbul: 'a friend pointed out to me young boys in white caps who seemed to have suddenly appeared like a rash in the city. He explained that they were expressing their solidarity with the child-assassin who was wearing a white cap when he killed Hrant Dink.' The reality is that both the government and the deep state are politically connected to this vibrant movement. And that is why any publicised ‘crack down’ of Ergenekon is a ‘storm in a teacup’ the only real consequences of which is to make the deep state deeper still.
The part of the Turkish state that wants Kemal Kutan extradited into their hands is strengthened by the populist nationalist fervour that Arundhati Roy speaks of. It will also immensely strengthen those tendencies in the Turkish judiciary and prison system that human rights organisations have complained about (see above).
The wide international exposure to the human rights violations in its prison and legal system means that the Turkish government knows that extradition orders that it issues will be resisted. This has meant that the Turkish authorities routinely resort to adding ungrounded and often outrageous criminal charges to try to justify these extradition orders. Kemal Kutan’s case is no exception. In fact, the highly respected IHD (Human Rights Association) from Istanbul strongly implies this in their statement about Kemal Kutan and goes on to explain why the Turkish government wants him extradited ‘… although in reality the motive is his persistent engagement in political activities.’
Kemal Kutan’s ‘persistent engagement’ since his teenage years is what the Turkey’s ‘deep state’ would see as ‘high treason’. The BBC traces ‘deep state’ in Turkey thus:
‘The phenomenon, much-discussed but never proven, is said to stretch back to Cold War times, when illicit paramilitary gangs were supposedly set up in collaboration with Western intelligence agencies to prevent the spread of communism.’
The right wing nationalist resurgence in Turkey has energised the ‘deep state’. The controversy surrounding the arrests of supporters of Ergenekon might give the Turkish government an opportunity to try to distance itself from the murderers of a famous writer like Hrant Dink. But the Turkish state has neither the inclination nor even the capability to resist the ‘deep state’ when it comes to Kemal Kutan and his like.
Søren Kam tells the BBC journalist that the killing of the well-known Danish newspaper editor Carl Henrik Clemmensen was a mistake – implying that, he was, as part of established power at the time authorised to hunt down the anti-fascist resistance movement. He had thought that Clemmensen was part of the anti-fascist resistance, which SS regarded as ‘terrorists’. But Kam says in this case they were mistaken. This means of course that Kam felt he was justified in abducting and shooting people if they were part of the of the anti-fascist resistance.
The Turkish ‘deep state’ sees Kemal Kutan as a ‘terrorist’ for very similar reasons to that Søren Kam and his SS comrades saw the resistance in Denmark. In fact, in a similar way the Danish resistance was a response to the Nazi rule in Denmark, Kemal Kutan himself was a product of the Turkish ‘deep state’. It is true that he came from Dersim, which had a long history of oppression due to the brutal attempt at assimilation - and that this would have created a certain consciousness in the young Kemal Kutan. But it is the period of the military coup in 1980 and the brutality of the fascistic ‘paramilitary gangs’ (BBC) allied to the ‘deep state’ that developed his political engagement. His identification of the Turkish State as the source of the problem would have been fortified by his physical experience of the Turkish ‘deep state’. For 26 years he has been in confrontation with the Turkish ‘deep state’ – the latest phase being through his journal ‘Halkin Demokrasisi’. His ‘his persistent engagement in political activities’ (IHD), would have been a sufficient condition to earn him the charge of ‘High Treason’ from the Turkish authorities. It is the ‘Police, Gendarmes, and the security forces’ that will deal out the punishment if he is deported to Turkey. As Human Rights Watch stated in the letter regarding Nuriye Kesbir:
‘… Turkish authorities do not maintain effective control over those persons—police, gendarmes, and security forces—primarily responsible for on-going acts of torture in Turkey. Diplomatic assurances from Turkish officials that Ms. Kesbir would not be tortured or ill treated could not be relied upon because the authorities offering such guarantees have not developed systems that actually control and hold accountable those forces that perpetrate such abuses.’
In fact, one political component of the recent nationalist surge in Turkey is its virulent opposition to international organisations that are concerned with human rights. Lawyers and other defenders of the victims of this right wing nationalism - especially international NGO’s - are called many names including ‘Missionaries’ and characterised as being supporters of 'missionary politics'. So, whereas, ‘diplomatic assurances’ may be given by the Turkish government that Kemal Kutan will be given a fair trial and that he will not be tortured, the shadowy forces behind the legal process that will prosecute Kemal Kutan and the ‘police, gendarmes, and security forces’ that will in practise deal with him before and afterwards will not feel constrained by these assurances given by the Turkish government. On the contrary they will feel duty bound, and even proud, to stand up to the ‘missionary forces’ that try to limit their actions – especially as they would feel that the populist nationalism would be on their side. So in fact, in the case of Kemal Kutan, it will be the Turkish government that will be constrained by the ‘deep state’ and not the other way round.
It is in this context that we say that the anti-fascist values in the German legal system will be tested by the case of Kemal Kutan. It is in this context that we appeal to you to make a stand on this issue. Kemal Kutan is facing political asylum case. We ask you to take a bit of time to write to the asylum authorities and/or to the political executive in Germany which can also influence whether he is deported on not.
Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge - Fax: 00 49 911 943 1000
The political executive:
Justice Minister - Ms. Zypries: Fax 0049 1888 580 95 25
You can do this as an individual or as an organisation. It is important that you send a copy of your letter to us. Another way is that you email your letter to us and we can send it to the relevant places. We also intend to put a selection of the letters on our website. Please let us know if you have objections to putting your letter on the Internet.
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