Next Tuesday I am travelling to Istanbul to see the curtain come down on one of the most farcical trials I have witnessed in my years as an observer at trials of journalists in Turkey. The Odatv case began in 2011 when journalists and others on the internet news station were accused of being involved in a plot to overthrow the government and being part of the “Ergenekon Terrorist Organisation.” Among those charged was journalist Muyesser Yildiz, who was adopted by the NUJ some five years ago and I have covered the trial in my blogs since that time (the last report was on 25 September 2016 see ‘More trials pile up’).
The weekend before before the SPOT (Solidarity with the People of Turkey) delegation arrived in Istanbul, the city was in the grip of freezing temperatures and the heaviest snow-falls for 20 years with over 2 feet (65 cm) of snow paralysing the city. A few days later when we arrived on 11 January, much of the snow and ice had thawed, but it was obvious that the country’s democracy was still in the grip of a deep freeze and the temperature was plunging.
I have recently returned from a visit to Istanbul with the SPOT delegation (Solidarity with the People of Turkey). The following day (15 January) the Turkish Parliament gave preliminary approval to a new constitution which will increase the powers of President Erdogan. There will be a second round of voting later this week and, if approved, a referendum will follow probably in April. It is a power grab by Erdogan. The new constitution will allow the president to appoint and dismiss ministers, and it will abolish the post of prime minister for the first time in Turkey’s history. There will be at least one vice-president! The bill’s final articles were passed late on Sunday, with the governing AK Party (AKP) gaining the three-fifths majority it needed with the support of the Nationalists. It is also rumoured that there could be a general election in the spring.