Diyarbakır - Hakkari, Oct 21 () - Diyarbakır Association head Tahir Elçi, who was detained in the southeastern province late on Oct. 19 for recent remarks that “the PKK is not a terror organization,” was released on probation on Oct. 20 but has been barred from traveling out of the country.
“I am behind my words and believe that they are true. The words I said cannot constitute a crime” Elçi said in his testimony about the remarks, which he made last week during a television program on CNNTürk hosted by Hürriyet columnist Ahmet Hakan.
In addition, the Bakırköy Chief Prosecutor’s Office also included Hakan and the program’s broadcasting manager in the investigation.
“Let alone being PKK, [Elçi] is not even a sympathizer. He is a man of peace. If Mr. Elçi said ‘I am a suicide bomber,’ they would say in the prime minister’s words, ‘We cannot do anything to you because you have not blown yourself up yet. Release him,’” said the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş.
Meanwhile, Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy head Enis Berberoğlu also said the detention of Elçi for his remarks was evidence of a “double standard” while those aided and abetted the perpetrators of the Oct. 10 Ankara Massacre were only apprehended days after the fact.
Elçi, who is accused of “terrorism propaganda,” was detained at around 2 a.m. at the bar association building, where he was waiting to be detained by police following a detention order issued by a court in Istanbul’s Bakırköy district earlier on Oct. 19.
During his wait, Elçi was accompanied by representatives of civil organizations, HDP lawmakers, Diyarbakır co-mayor Gültan Kışanak and a group of lawyers.
The detention warrant for Elçi said the bar association head was “hiding inside the country to lead to the failure of an investigation against him on charges of terror propaganda.”
“For a remark, for a word, a bar association head is being detained,” Elçi said while being taken into custody. “We are witnessing a remarkable practice regarding the situation of freedom of expression and democracy in Turkey. A bar association head is behind detained at a bar association building for his remarks at the moment.”
The Diyarbakır Bar Association’s former head, Mehmet Emin Aktar, said the detention ruling was made “upon orders.”
“For the first time, a bar association head has been detained for expressing his views,” Aktar said. “This is against the law, double standards, and aims to silence us all. We will not be silenced.”
Meanwhile, the Turkey Bar Association released a written statement saying that although it was impossible for the association to agree with any statement arguing the PKK was not a terror organization, the detainment of Elçi was nonetheless “against the law.”
“Arrest warrants can only be issued if the conditions described in the law are met” the statement said.
“The workplace and residence of Diyarbakır Bar Association head Tahir Elçi are known. Moreover, after finding out about the prosecution against him, Elçi announced to the public that he was waiting to be called to testify in his office at the courthouse,” it said.
“Therefore, the decision by the Bakırköy 2nd Criminal Court of Peace is clearly against the law,” the association added.
Elçi was referred to the court for arrest on Oct. 20.