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HomeHeadlineChallenging Injustice: Fighting for the Presumption of Innocence in 21st Century Turkey

Challenging Injustice: Fighting for the Presumption of Innocence in 21st Century Turkey

It is possible to trace the philosophical foundations of the presumption of innocence back to the Roman understanding of “Let a guilty person be convicted rather than several innocent ones.” The approach formulated as “it is better for 10 guilty persons to escape than for one innocent to suffer” is also referred to as a reference to the presumption of innocence.

The presumption of innocence, which lies at the very heart of the right to a fair trial, undoubtedly continues to be one of the most neglected rights in our country. We are living in a time where violating people’s innocence is as easy as pressing a button, where they are virtually subjected to public lynching through trial by media, and where the life of a person found innocent can be reduced to ruins. With lies and accusations, the innocence of tens of thousands of people continues to be disregarded. In the past, there were liars, and lies were told, but there used to be a lot of anxiety, a little guilt, a bit of shame, and some embarrassment associated with it. Now, lying without feeling guilty, finding reasons to cover up the truth has become natural. People are still victimized by these lies, just like in the painful stories from other countries…

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“I’m the lawyer for the Conlons, Inspector. Guiseppe Conlon is very ill. You must know that. I’ve filed a petition for his parole with the court. They’re asking for your permission.”… “This will be difficult, Miss Pierce. These people have committed terrible crimes. Society wants them to serve their sentences.” This dialogue is from the 1993 film “In the Name of the Father,” between the attorney of the Conlon family and a security inspector. Guiseppe Conlon, a father wrongly accused of involvement in the 1974 Guildford bombings, passes away just a few days after this dialogue.

In the 1970s, Gerry Conlon, a young man from Belfast, arrived in London with his friends and was arrested in October 1974 as the perpetrator of the Guildford bombings along with three of his friends. The passage of the Terrorism Act, which included coercive measures, through Parliament and its gaining legitimacy in the public eye was of great importance to the political authorities and security agencies. Whether they were guilty or not (!), the strategy of the government was to arrest someone for the bomb attacks. Gerry and his friends, considered the most hardcore IRA members (!), were detained, subjected to physical and psychological torture, and forced to confess to the crime. The government didn’t find the arrest of four people sufficient; Gerry’s father, Guiseppe, his aunt Elie, and children under the age of 18 were also arrested on charges of aiding and abetting the organization.

Gerry and his father were put in prison under the same security status as rapists and murderers, subjected to intense physical and psychological torture, even drawing the ire of actual criminals who said, “We don’t want Irish scum.” Although Guiseppe tried to console his son by saying, “Don’t lose hope,” Gerry responded with, “Don’t bother trying to console me… we’re innocent, but we can’t even leave our cells… it would have been better if we were guilty… at least we would have had some respect.” Guiseppe couldn’t bear the prison conditions and passed away, while Gerry was sent to a prison in Scotland to undermine the favorable public opinion in his favor.

The case was dropped thanks to a statement kept hidden by the Security Services, on which a note was written saying “not to be disclosed to the defense.” Gerry, his friends, and family were released. A government investigation opened after the case was dropped also revealed evidence that affected the reliability of the forensic personnel in the prosecution, and this alone was deemed sufficient to overturn the conviction.

It is impossible to overlook the fact that the lawlessness we witnessed in the movie “In the Name of the Father” and even worse is happening almost every day in 21st century Turkey. It is a well-known fact that hundreds of thousands of actual criminals, ranging from rapists and murderers to drug traffickers, walk freely out of prison under “probation” or similar execution methods, and even boastfully make headlines with similar crimes at the first opportunity.

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It is common knowledge that tens of thousands of innocent people, who have never even held a knife in their hands, are subjected to a witch hunt, manipulated through hate campaigns, and their release is deliberately delayed. When the security inspector says, “Society wants them to serve their sentences,” he is lying and trying to manipulate public opinion. The same lies, or even worse, are repeated every day in 21st century Turkey, from the political authorities to the bureaucracy, from the media to the public.

With the Grand Chamber judgment of the European Court of Human Rights to be announced on September 26 (hopefully), it will be revealed that the lies, accusations, and allegations that have disregarded the innocence of tens of thousands of people are unjust and unlawful, and innocent people will soon regain their deserved freedom.

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Nurullah Albayrak is lawyer and columnist at TR724.com

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