On 3 June 2013, Ali Ismail Korkmaz, a nineteen-year old university student in Eskisehir, was participating in nonviolent peaceful protests against the Turkish government when he was brutally clubbed and beaten by a group of police officers and civilians. The protestors were demanding the retraction of an urban development plan for Gezi Park in Istanbul that required the demolition of the only green area in the heart of the city. The wave of protests quickly spread to all of Turkey. On the day he was attacked, Ali Ismail Korkmaz was ironically wearing a t-shirt that read “world peace,” representing the humane spirit of the Gezi Protests. Shortly after the brutal attack, he slipped into a coma due to a brain hemorrhage, and died thirty-eight days later. His death caused a public uproar, especially because the video footage showed clearly how a group of eight men cornered Ali Ismail and hit him with clubs and then continued to kick him once he was on the ground. Ismail Saymaz, an investigative journalist who followed the case closely, went to great lengths to make the video footage public; it was eventually picked up by several websites and news channels.
On 21 January 2015, two Turkish police officers, Mevlut Saldogan and Yalcin Akbulut, were sentenced to ten years and ten months jail time. The outcome of the trial is proof that human life is cheap in Turkey, leaving many still reeling for retribution. Some news agencies have reported the convictions of the police officers as if this is an achievement on the part of the Turkish judicial system, emphasizing the jail time they got. What should have been emphasized instead is that they only got around ten years, based on good conduct during the trial. However, the officers will not even serve for that long: according to Mevlut Sandogan’s attorney, since he already served eighteen months in prison, Saldogan will be released on parole after serving four and a half years.
The 2012 Mersin case of three Kurdish boys (whose names are sealed as part of juvenile records) gives us a different example of sentencing in Turkish trials. The boys were protesting the government for the Roboski Massacre, in which thirty-four civilians were slaughtered by Turkish military airstrikes on 28 December 2011. The children were also protesting the solitary confinement of Abdullah Öcalan. They were detained at Pozanti Juvenile Prison in Adana, where they suffered sexual and physical abuse while in state detention. The government purposefully turned a blind-eye to the allegations. The criminal investigation into the Pozanti Juvenile Prison has still not been concluded, but the children’s juvenile case was concluded on 27 November 2012. Under the anti-terror laws, the three Kurdish children were convicted of “membership of an illegal organization” and “making propaganda for an illegal organization.” They were sentenced to jail for twenty, sixteen, and fifteen years respectively.
So this is the status of the Turkish justice system: when the police, acting on behalf of the state, kills an innocent victim exercising his democratic right to peaceful assembly, the perpetrators get ten years, of which they will only serve four and a half. On the other hand, if the protestor gets arrested and does not die from police brutality, he can be prosecuted under the anti-terror law and get sentenced to between fifteen and twenty years in prison. He can also get sexually and physically abused under detention, and the state will not make it a priority to investigate its own institution.
Turkey is going through a unique period of authoritarianism. Some claim that prior to the current AKP regime, Turkey was much more democratic and secular. However, the oppression has been there from the beginning against any group that did not fall in line with state’s views of what was politically acceptable. Many groups—including, but not limited to, Socialists, Alevis, Kurds, Armenians, Christians, and Muslims—have been persecuted by the Turkish State. If not killed, or made to disappear, people are persecuted through a legal system that does not provide them justice. The judiciary becomes yet another extension of state oppression. Those who are murdered by the state continue to be victimized post mortem, as there is no justice provided for the crimes they suffer.
There are many who are fighting relentlessly for democracy in Turkey every day. As expected, the state targets these people continuously through the use of its judiciary arm. Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel Laureate in Literature, and Hrant Dink, the assassinated Armenian-Turkish journalist, are the most famous targets of Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which criminalizes statements that insult the Turkish state and the Turkish nation. The day after the verdict of Ali Ismail Korkmaz came out, the renowned human rights attorney Eren Keskin was sentenced to ten months in prison under Article 301. She was prosecuted for a statement she uttered in 2005 that was as follows: “The Turkish state is brutal in its way of slaughtering a twelve-year old child. Turkey needs to be held accountable.” (She was referring to Ugur Kaymaz, who was shot by the police with thirteen bullets.) Ironically, the same day, Riza Turmen, the former judge of European Court of Human Rights, and now an MP for the main opposition party, the CHP, made public the results of a striking report. According to the information in this report, 241 children were killed at the hands of the Turkish state in the past eleven years. There is neither transparency nor accountability for any of these crimes. But the public never forgets.
 See the report published by the GUE/NGL group in the European Parliament.