Saturday Mothers on trial for reclaiming justice and truth

The hearing of the trial for the 950th sit-in of the Saturday Mothers will be held in Istanbul today.

Two Turkish prosecutors have made conflicting decisions regarding separate but identical protest vigils organized by the Saturday Mothers, with one prosecutor deciding not to pursue charges and the other demanding sanctions.

The prosecutor who dropped the case was investigating the group's 959th weekly sit-in, while the one who filed the charges was working on the 950th sit-in.

The hearing is to be held at Istanbul 39th Criminal Court of First Instance. The court allowed just five people into the courtroom for identification. Members of the EU Turkey's delegation will attend the trial.

The Saturday Mothers are accused of violating the law on meetings and demonstrations and now face sanctions under the law as well as a possible ban on engaging in any political activity. 

According to a monitoring report jointly published by Memory and Peace Studies, the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), Amnesty International and the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TIHV), the Saturday Mothers did not resist when the police handcuffed and arrested them during the 950th sit-in.

Another contradiction lies in the fact that the prosecutor seeking sanctions for the 950th sit-in had previously decided not to prosecute the participants of the 941st sit-in, citing fundamental rights protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention European Union of Human Rights, the Turkish Constitution and the Supreme Court of Turkey.

A ruling by the Constitutional Court in November 2022 nevertheless ruled that the obstruction by the police of the group's weekly sit-ins violated the right to peaceful assembly and demonstration.

However, in recent months, Turkish courts have intensified their failure to respect the jurisdiction and orders of the Constitutional Court, causing one of the most serious judicial crises in the country's history.

The Saturday Mothers

The Saturday Mothers are a group of activists who seek to know the fate of their loved ones who disappeared in police custody in the 1980s and 1990s and demand accountability for these disappearances.

28 years ago, the Saturday Mothers (in Kurdish: Dayikên Şemiyê, in Turkish: Cumartesi Anneleri) organized the first sit-in in Galatasaray Square, in Istanbul, to demand an end to enforced disappearances and demand that they be returned their missing loved ones.

The Saturday mothers criticize the Turkish state for not having seriously investigated the forced disappearances and for having failed to establish the truth about those who disappeared after their detention by the Turkish authorities.

According to the Human Rights Association (IHD), between 1992 and 1996, 792 forced disappearances and murders (of journalists, trade unionists, doctors, teachers, children or simple peasants) by the State were reported.