A Turkish court on Tuesday decided to put under arrest 44 people, including Publisher Ragip Zarakolu and Prof. Busra Ersanli, on charges of membership in  the so-called KCK (Union of Kurdistan Communities). They were among about 50 suspects detained over the weekend in a crackdown on the same charges.

After the interrogation at the police, all 50 persons were taken to the Istanbul Courthouse on Monday morning. The prosecutor decided to take 47 of them to court with the demand to arrest them.

According to lawyer Ercan Kanar, they were interrogated by 12 different prosecutors.

The interrogation was carried out for more than one day under torture-like conditions without sleeping. At the waiting room, 47 detainees had to share only few chairs in turn.

Ninety-six people were arrested as part of another operation against the KCK in Istanbul earlier this month.

The KCK investigation started in December 2009 and a large number of Kurdish politicians, including several officials from the BDP, have been detained as part of the case since then.

The suspects have been accused of various crimes, including membership in a terrorist organization, aiding and abetting a terrorist organization and attempting to destroy the country’s unity and integrity. The suspects include mayors and municipal officials from the BDP, which has said the investigation is the government’s method of suppressing its politicians, denying any links between its deputies and terrorist organizations.

Protests in front of the courthouse

While academic Ersanli and human rights defender Zarakolu gave their statements at the Besiktas (Istanbul) Courthouse, hundreds of people protested the latest wave of police custodies in front of the building.

The demonstrators had lots of renowned supporters such as Kurdish politician Sebahat Tuncel, columnist Yildirim Türker, widow of slain Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, Rakel Dink; journalist Özgür Mumcu, academic Koray Çaliskan, Gencay Gürsoy, Necmiye Alpay, Celalettin Can, President of the Press Institute Association Ferai Tinç, Provincial Chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) Oguz Kaan Salici, Chair of the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP) Alper Tas and lawyer Ibrahim Çiçek on behalf of the People’s Democracy Congress. Moreover, many of Ersanli’s students joined the protest. They said that they were going to persevere in front of the courthouse until a decision about the people in custody would have been taken.

The group of protestors held Ersanli’s book entitled "Power and History" and chanted slogans like "Teacher Büsra is not alone", "Long live the people’s brotherhood", "We are all Kurds, we are all KCK members" or "Peace cannot be struck with handcuffs".

Meanwhile, a large group of Turkish intellectuals, mainly academics, have launched a petition campaign to protest the detention of Professor Ersanli and to call for her release. A joint statement by the group said the detention of Ersanli, who has for years been working for sustainable peace and a new constitution in Turkey, led to outrage among all circles in the country that believe in the democratic state of law.

“The detention of Professor Büsra Ersanli is a heavy blow dealt to Turkey’s efforts towards a real democracy with equality, peace, social justice and academic and political freedoms. We demand the immediate release of Professor Büsra Ersanli and all other jailed politicians, academics and journalists who work for peace, democratic rights and freedoms in our country. The detention and arrest of people without any concrete and serious evidence under the primitive mentality of ‘though crimes’ is against human rights,” the statement said.

Among the intellectuals who have signed the joint statement are Ahmet Insel, Ali Bayramoglu, Cengiz Aktar, Cengiz Çandar, Hülya Gülbahar, Murat Belge, Mithat Sancar, Oral Çalislar, Ümit Cizre, Baskin Oran, Fuat Keyman and Yasar Kemal.