Saturday Mothers demand justice for 714th week

The Saturday Mothers gathered in Istanbul once again despite the police blockade.

For the 714th week the Saturday Mothers demanded justice and the truth for the disappeared people while in custody.

HDP deputies Meral Danış Beştaş, Dilşat Canbaz, Zeynel Özen, CHP deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu, film actor Nur Sürer and representatives of many organisations and parties joined the action and carried photographs of the disappeared people.

Hasan Ocak's sister, Maside Ocak, recalled that the right to make a press conference had been denied by State authorities and the Saturday Mothers have not been able to gather in Galatasaray Square for the past 15 weeks.

"Turkey - Maside Ocak said - is not a democratic state of law and the judiciary is failing the public and is subjected to the rules, thus depriving citizens of their rights and liberties.”

Lawyers Sevket Epözdemir and Tahir Elçi remembered

In this environment of illegality, said Ocak, the most important guarantee of the right to freedom, represented by lawyers, is under attack.

Ocak remembered murdered lawyers Sevket Epözdemir and Tahir Elçi, saying: “These two lawyers pursued crimes against humanity committed in the conditions of law suspension. They struggled to expose the perpetrators of these crimes. They were thus subjected to heavy pressure. They were threatened and ordered to give up their human rights advocacy activities. They were massacred when they resisted to the threats and continued their activities.”

Human Rights Association (IHD) Tatvan Representative, lawyer Sevket Epözdemir, was struggling in the 90s against the violent rights violations, recalled Ocak.

Epözdemir was kidnapped while he was returning home from his office on 25 November 1993. His lifeless body was found the next day on a road in the vicinity of Güroymak district of Bitlis. He had been shot in the face.

Ocak pointed out that all of his family's legal initiatives have failed.

For 25 years, a serious investigation on Şevket Epözdemir murder has not been carried out, said Ocak.

Maside Ocak also reminded that Tahir Elçi, President of the Amed Bar Association, was a well-known lawyer, committed to ensure that crimes against humanity would not go unpunished. When he was the President of Diyarbakır Bar Association, he was targeted. On 28 November 2015, he was killed with a single bullet on the head during the press conference he was giving to defend historical buildings in front of the Four-legged Minaret in the Sur district of Diyarbakır.

Although the incident took place in front of a large number of cameras, said Ocak, three years have passed since the murder and not a suspect is on the investigation file.

As in the case of lawyer Epözdemir, no effective investigation had been carried out on the murder of Tahir Elçi.

After the statement by Maside Ocak, the nephew of Şevket Epözdemir, Ferhat Epözdemir, said: “My uncle was born in Siirt in 1943. He has been the lawyer of the oppressed since 1976. He chose to be with the people. He defended the oppressed, victims of torture. When he demanded peace, democracy, and freedom, he was slaughtered.”

Journalist Tepe remembered

Ferhat Tepe was a journalist with Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem. His father recalled how is son disappeared while in police custody. “We lost our son - said Isak Tepe - and Sevket Epözdemir was our lawyer. He was also DEP Tatvan branch chair. Those were times when the military was threatening everyone. Ferhat was taken into custody and disappeared. Sevket also disappeared. We will continue to ask for justice for both.”