Court victory for the Anatolian People’s Cultural Centre

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Hands off the Anatolian

On 19 May comrades from the north London Anatolian People’s Cultural Centre (APCC) and their magazine Yuruyus (‘March’) won another victory for the freedom to express political views and organise around them, when Ayfer Yildiz was acquitted in the second of two trials to arise from a raid on the Centre on 6 April 2016.

The raid was clearly politically motivated and took place just weeks after Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davatoglu had met then British PM David Cameron in the course of talks around Turkey-EU refugees and trade agreements. It was justified on the basis of allegations that the APCC was fundraising for the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (Devrimci Halk Kurtuluş Partisi-Cephesi – DHKP-C), an illegal organisation in Turkey, which is also banned in Britain under the Terrorism Act 2000. The order to close the APCC was issued under the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 – the first time such an order has been used in this way to close premises which are alleged to have links to a banned organisation.

The APCC was not intimidated and set up a temporary centre in a tent opposite the locked building, which remained there for 105 days, continuing the centre’s work and demanding the return of all the property confiscated in the raid.

Alaettin Kalender and Ayfer Yildiz were arrested on the day of the raid and released on police bail, with conditions not to distribute Yuruyus, not to go to the APCC premises and to sign on at a police station three times a week. After a lengthy period on bail they were charged with offences under the Terrorism Act and told they would be tried at the Old Bailey.

Like many progressive organisations based in north London, the APCC distributes its literature at the ‘free speech area’ outside Wood Green library; however the police continued to harass the organisation there, as well as at the tent, arresting Ayfer, who then spent two weeks in Bronzefield prison, for allegedly breaching the condition not to distribute Yuruyus.

On 16 December 2016, after a three-day trial, Alaettin was acquitted of possessing material of use to terrorists – charges based on the contents of 1997 issues of publications found in his house during the police raid.

Ayfer’s trial opened on 8 May 2017 and lasted nine days. The case was highly political with not only Ayfer’s own conduct questioned but the whole people’s resistance struggle in Turkey seemingly on trial. The defence case ensured that the jury understood how the fascist Turkish state attacks revolutionaries and Alevis, and wages war on the Kurdish people using systematic torture and mass murder. In Ayfer’s evidence she talked about her sister Sultan Yildiz, who was killed by the Turkish government in 2001, and in talking about her sister, she was also able to talk about prison conditions and death fast/hunger strike protests.

On the third day of the trial articles from Yuruyus were read to the court and questions asked about the armed struggle and about specific revolutionary fighters named in the publication. When the prosecutor referred to them as ‘terrorists’, Ayfer replied that for her they were not terrorists but martyrs who had died for the country and the people.

When asked about support for the armed struggle, Ayfer replied that the brutal fascist massacres carried out by the Turkish state left the people with no other choice but to resist. She explained that different people contribute to the fight in different ways and that her personal contribution is made by dancing, singing and acting. The prosecution barrister then asked if she believed in revolution, to which Ayfer responded by talking about organising people to resist, industrial struggle and people’s assemblies, and how the Russian Revolution was not a violent coup but a workers’ revolution which began when thousands of workers went on strike.

In the defence summing up the court was told that Yuruyus magazine has been openly distributed for ten years and that its aim is to tell people the truth about repression in Turkey, not to encourage terrorism.

The jury then asked the judge a few questions and retired to consider its verdict. The case was divided into two counts relating to two different editions of Yuruyus. The jury deliberated for some time before coming back with a 10-2 majority verdict of Not Guilty in relation to issue 502. After a short break the prosecution then decided not to proceed any further and withdrew the charge in relation to issue 501.

Ayfer and all the comrades from APCC have been vindicated. The attack on them by the British imperialist state, acting at the behest of Turkish fascism, was once again unsuccessful. Presented with the facts of the struggle in Turkey, a jury of ordinary working class people were not convinced that any crime had been committed.

Nicki Jameson

For the background to the attack on the APCC see: www.revolutionarycommunist. org/britain/housing-and-welfare/4423-anatolian-people-s-cultural-centre

For details of Alaettin Kalender’s trial see: www.revolutionarycommunist.org/britain/police-prisons/4553-aao-301216

 Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 258 June/July 2017