Turkish Justice: Settling Scores, Punishing Enemies

Professor Kemal Guruz, former head of the Turkish Council on Higher Education (CHE), has been in a maximum security prison now for a little over a year, charged with participating in what has been called Turkey’s “Postmodern Coup,” when the Turkish military forced the resignation of an Islamist Prime Minister in 1997.  Guruz, who has never owned a gun in his life, wrote a long letter shortly after being imprisoned, refuting the charges against him.  He concludes by asking:

So, why am I here? The answer to this question was aptly provided by the spokesperson of the ruling AKP, Hüseyin Çelik, who was the Minister of National Education during my last year as the president of the CHE in 2003. What he said in short was I was paying for my actions as the president of the CHE and in that it served me right that I should be put in jail and tried in court.

Professor Guruz is not the only one in a Turkish prison who can ask “why am I here?”  Deniz Zarakolu, son of Nobel Prize-nominated human rights defender and publisher Ragip Zarakolu, has been in prison since October 2011, even though his father, for whom he worked and with whom he had shared a cell, was released last year after an international outcry over his imprisonment.

The lengthy pre-trial detentions appear to be primarily a means of extracting vengeance on political enemies.  And it seems to have worked.  After more than a year behind bars, Kemal Guruz has apparently succumbed to depression and attempted suicide.

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