Jailed Turkish musicians critical on death fast: calls for justice as Trial begins

Hunger Striking Grup Yorum Member Gökçek Stands Trial

https://bianet.org/english/law/220065-hunger-striking-grup-yorum-member-gokcek-stands-trial-todayİbrahim Gökçek, one of the guitarists of GrupYorum music band, has appeared before the judge for the first time today. Behind bars since March 1, 2019, Gökçek has been on a hunger strike for his right to a fair trial for 240 days.

‘Death Fasting Grup Yorum Members are in Critical Condition’

HDP Foreign Affairs Commission has addressed an open letter to the international community, raising concerns over the critical condition of death fasting Grup Yorum music band members: “Hear the voices of hunger strikers and take immediate action.”

Click to read the article in Turkish

Hişyar Özsoy, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Vice Chair, has addressed an open letter to the international community regarding the condition of hunger striking Grup Yorum music band members.

Expressing the HDP’s “full support for the rightful demands of hunger strikers”, HDP Vice Chair Responsible for Foreign Affairs has called upon “all international democratic institutions and progressive forces to hear the voices of hunger strikers, take immediate action, and encourage Turkish authorities to meet their justified demands.”

CLICK – Grup Yorum Music Band to Stand Trial

İbrahim Gökçek, the guitarist of Grup Yorum music band, has been on a hunger strike in prison for 240 days and musician Helin Bölek has been on a hunger strike for 239 days. They demand their right to a fair trial and an end to constant police raids against their cultural center.

‘They are on strike to protest unlawful pressures’

“One of the most famous leftist political music bands in Turkey, Grup Yorum has been under constant pressures and harassment of the government”, Özsoy has indicated in the introduction to his letter.

Referring to the “detentions, arrests and bans that the band members have been facing due to their political ideas”, Özsoy has stated, “Some members have been on a hunger strike for over 230 says to protest these unlawful pressures. Two of them did turn their hunger strikes into death fast in January.” He has briefly stated the following in his letter:

‘Their cultural center raided for eight times’

“Grup Yorum was established against the backdrop of the repressive political climate after the 1980 military coup. It has produced twenty-three albums and one film since 1985.

“Many concerts and albums of the band were banned, while several band members have been arrested and even tortured. Despite such oppression, the band is still very popular both at home and abroad.

“Over the last three years, the police have raided at least eight times the İdil Cultural Center in İstanbul, where the band carries out its activities.

“During the raids, musical instruments of the band were either broken or taken away, music books damaged. According to a statement by the band, the police arrested a total of 30 people in these raids.

“Band members initiated a hunger strike in June 2019 in protest of these attacks. The band demands the release of its arrested members, removal of arrest warrants against some other members, termination of incessant police raids into the İdil Cultural Center, and an end to arbitrary bans on their concerts and cultural events.

‘Their health condition is rapidly deteriorating’

“The health condition of hunger strikers is rapidly deteriorating. Band member İbrahim Gökçek has been in Silivri Prison since March 1, 2019. He has been on hunger strike since 18 June and turned the strike into death fast on January 4, 2020.

“Band member Helin Bölek began her hunger strike on June 19 while in prison. She was released from prison on November 20, 2019 but continued with her strike due to ongoing pressures on the band. She too did turn her hunger strike into death fast on 20 January 2020.

‘Stop bullying, criminalizing, repressing Grup Yorum’

“As the HDP, we fully support the rightful demands of hunger strikers and call upon the Turkish government to immediately stop bullying, criminalizing and repressing Grup Yorum and other oppositional musicians and artists in the country by means of unlawful detentions, arrests, raids, and bans.

“We also call upon all international democratic institutions and progressive forces to hear the voices of hunger strikers, take immediate action, and encourage Turkish authorities to meet their justified demands.

“It is truly both pity and shame for Turkey that musicians are using their emaciating bodies as a medium of protest to demand their most basic rights. Musicians should not be in prison because of singing songs!”

What happened?

The İdil Cultural Center in Okmeydanı, İstanbul has been raided by the police for over 10 times over the last two years.

During the raids, instruments of Grup Yorum members were either broken or gone missing, their music books were also damaged.

According to the statement made by the group, a total of 30 people were arrested in these raids. Seven members of the band are still arrested.

(AS/SD)

İstanbul – BIA News Desk shared with thanks

13 February 2020, Thursday

By TM

İbrahim Gökçek, jailed Turkish musician and a member of the leftist Grup Yorum band, gave an interview from his prison cell to the Cumhuriyet newspaper in which he asked for an end to political pressures on the band as a condition to ending the death fast he has been on since Jan. 3.

In an interview published by Cumhuriyet on Monday, Gökçek said all he wants is justice.

“We have given free concerts for people. We have been the voice of the poor, the miners and the workers. We have been put on terror lists for that,” Gökçek said. “I am trying to be a barricade against a great assault.”

When asked what his demands were, the jailed musician said: “First, I would like to be released. They should stop raiding our cultural centers and lift the ban on our concerts. They should revoke the prison sentences handed down to us and remove our name from terror lists.”

Members of Grup Yorum are standing trial on accusations of membership in a terrorist organization.

Thirty members of İdil Kültür Merkezi, a cultural center in İstanbul affiliated with the band, were also imprisoned in a raid on the center in February 2019.

Some of them went on a hunger strike in prison, demanding freedom for the group’s members and an end to bans on its concerts.

Last week, some members of the band were received in Brussels by Marie Arena, the chair of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights.

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