Fevzi Yazıcı, the jailed art director of the now-closed-down Zaman daily, has sent a letter, accompanied by his drawings, to the Kronos online news outlet sharing his reflections on the layout of the courtroom in which he was given aggravated life sentence.

Jailed pending trial on accusation of membership to a terror group in the summer of 2016, Yazıcı was given aggravated life sentence along with 5 other journalists including Altan brothers and Nazli Ilicak on charges of attempting to destroy the constitutional order, on Feb 16, 2018.

In his letter from the Silivri prison on March 5, Yazıcı said he felt himself like a gladiator thrown into a lion pit during their 4-day final hearing.

Below are some excerpts from the translation of his letter.

“We have been seeking our rights at courtrooms for the past 8 months. They say the JUSTICE is dispensed at these places. …We tried to defend ourselves at that place for 4 days. The words COUP, SUBLIMINAL, TERRORIST, ASSOCIATION and AGGRAVATED LIFE SENTENCE perpetually rebounded into our ears.

“Nobody knows if [people] at the courtroom listened to us at all but the place itself telling us something. That colossal atmosphere with its overwhelming and eye-catching costumes whispers us a lot. But you need to incline your ear to hear it. Here is what I could hear and even see:

“A total of seven defendants were like taking cover against a great, merciless bombardment in the middle of the courtroom.

“Thank God, my skills that makes me, me have yet to collapse despite this bombardment. My designing eyes are still free and alive. I constantly eye the length and breadth of the place with glassy looks and keep notes in my own way. Look what I remember from the memory.

“Seventy armed soldiers stand against the seven defendants with their pens on hand. You know, they are around for security. I couldn’t have a chance to ask: Who are they protecting from whom? I don’t know, maybe they are just for decoration.

 

“I don’t know why defendants are put as far where they are not able even to make an eye contact with their lawyers. Don’t they sit side by side with their clients in Hollywood movies?

“Please illustrate this in your mind: your place as a defendant is in the middle of the court. Everyone except you stands on something higher than your level. The defense lawyers on the right-hand side and the lawyers of the complainants on the left look at you from above. Thank God, their height is not the kind you would mind. But the place where the judge and the prosecutor sit facing you is hyperbolic enough to make your eyes pop. If defendants are on the ground, they must be above the clouds.

“The only thing that missing between you and the board of judges is a ditch filled with alligators!

“Well, this is the courtroom and this is called the defense, right?

“I guess it was around 1990s. Everything was kind of exposed to the democratization wave. They were also talking about an adjustment in the layout of courtrooms. According to the adjustment, they prosecutor would sit at the same level with the lawyers, just like in movies… They discussed this for a long time. What superiority would the prosecutor have over the defense so that his/her chair is elevated?

“If your intention is to serve the justice, wouldn’t it be necessary to start from the base and venue? Don’t you see that the defendants are no different than those gladiators thrown to the lions like in the arenas in Rome?