10 September 2006

1000) The Other Side of the 1919-20 Ottoman Trials

The kangaroo courts of 1919-20, conducted under British occupation, comprise the "bread and butter" of "genocidal proof" to pro-Armenians. The "foremost authority on the Armenian Genocide," Vahakn Dadrian, has conducted the greatest research on these trials, the original transcript of which appear no longer to be available. (Dadrian mainly resorted to summaries published in the official newspapers of the puppet Ottomans in charge.) Dadrian explains the reason for why these trials became necessary:

"When Turkey at the end of October 1918 laid prostrate and asked for a suspension of hostilities, the victorious allies — France, Britain, and Italy — stipulated, among others, a condition to postwar Turkish authorities... They said, ‘Unless you prosecute and punish the authors of Armenian deportations and massacres, the conditions of the impending peace will be very severe and harsh.’ In part, to accommodate the victorious allies, successive postwar Turkish governments established court martials in Istanbul, Turkey."

Dadrian has gone to lengths to fish for reasons as to why these trials were so legitimate and professional (while everywhere else in his writings, he has depicted the Ottoman Turks as the very opposite: illegitimate and unprofessional in the way they conducted business), but even if these trials were conducted in a squeaky-clean manner, the fact that they were held under the guns of enemy occupiers already makes them a farce. The fact is, however, these were not conducted in a legal manner. Due process was mainly denied; they were kangaroo courts.

Dadrian also misleads by giving the impression these trials were solely about the Armenians. They were not. Another reason why they were illegitimate is that the new puppet government was out for revenge. Some were dragged to court for violations of military order such as leaving a post without permission. As Professor Malcolm Yapp has written: "The 1919 courts martial, however cannot be taken entirely at face value because they were conducted by a government which was anxious to pin any blame on the CUP leaders..."

Prof. Guenter Lewy gave an excellent presentation as to what lay behind these courts, and the manner in which they were conducted. The British themselves considered them a travesty of justice.

The following reproduces most of an article entiled "Fair Trial?", appearing in The Turkish Daily News (April 14, 2005), and written by Gündüz Aktan ( www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=10777 )

The fact that the Armenian incidents were tragic has never been denied. It may be said that the kind of writings on history that have sometimes been derided as the “official history” began with the late Ambassador Kamuran Gurun's book “Armenian File.” Contrary to what some seem to believe, Mr. Gurun wrote that book not after he went into retirement but in 1982, that is, at a time he was serving as the undersecretary of the Turkish Foreign Ministry. He recognized in this book that around 300,000 Armenians may have lost their lives in the course of the relocation.
Mehmet Kemal Bey

The first Martial Law Court concerning crimes related to the relocation of the Armenians was set up on Dec. 16, 1918. It was thought that the court was working too slowly. So when Damat Ferit Pasha became prime minister, he made Mustafa Nazim Pasha (called Nemrut because of his cruelty) the presiding judge. The court took prompt action, condemning to death Bogazlayan County Governor Kemal Bey on April 8 and Bayburt County Governor Nusret Bey on July 8, in spite of the absence of material evidence.

The cases related to the Armenian problem made up only a small part of the court's business. The main aim of the Freedom and Accord government was to have its arch-enemy, the Unity and Progress Party, liquidated thanks to those trials. For this reason the defendants' right to a defense was consistently violated. Terrorized by the atmosphere thus created, the defendants accused one another to save their own lives, giving the kind of testimony the judges wanted.

The way it ruled in two cases gives an idea about the nature of the court. In its ruling that appeared in the June 25, 1920 issues of the newspapers, the court described the “National Forces” as forces of dissension and treachery; and it referred to “National Forces” figures such as generals and members of Parliament including Col. Ismet (Inönü) as “bandits affiliated with Unity and Progress.” The court condemned these persons to death and seized their property. In the same ruling the court accused the Ankara-based Turkish Grand National Assembly of being a gathering of “ambitious and malicious rebels.”

The second ruling in question appeared in the newspapers on May 11, 1920. In that ruling the court condemned to death Mustafa Kemal “and his accomplices,” that is, Kara Vasif, Ali Fuat Pasha, Ahmet Rustem Bey (who was a man from Poland who embraced Islam and later became the Republic of Turkey's ambassador to Washington), Adnan Adivar and Halide Edip Adivar.

The British thought that the court acting so unfairly could harm their own position. They took to Malta 144 defendants, some of them accused in relation to the Armenian incidents. However, the British royal prosecutor there said that there was no way he could arrange for an Istanbul-type trial and that he would need sound evidence and witness accounts for a British-type trial. When these were not provided, he released the defendants from custody.

That says a lot for the nature of the Martial Law Court of Nemrut.
Gunduz Aktan

In reality there has been much more meaningful court cases one should take into consideration when trying to determine whether the Armenian incidents were genocide. Courts created during the Unity and Progress era due to the crimes committed against the Armenians in the course of their forced relocation meted out sentences to a total 1,397 people. (Some of these people were condemned to death.) Of these convictions, 648 were in Sivas, 223 in Mamuretu'l Aziz, 70 in Diyarbakir, 25 in Bitlis, 29 in Eskisehir, six in Sebinkarahisar, eight in Nigde, 33 in Izmit, 32 in Ankara, 69 in Kayseri, 27 in Syria, 12 in Hudavendigar, 12 in Konya, 189 in Urfa and 12 in Canik.

Among those punished were Konya military governor Aziz Bey, some officers and gendarmerie privates and an Armikyan that had stolen fellow Armenians' jewels.

Punishing those that have done wrong to the very people you have subjected to genocide would have been something as strange and as gross as the Germans punishing SS officials.

Note: In this article I made use of a study made by Associate Professor Süleyman Beyoglu.

Holdwater: the 1,397 taken to court during the war has been updated to 1,673, according to new research.

© Holdwater

The source site of this article gets revised often, as better
information comes along. For the most up-to-date version, and
the related photos, the reader may consider reviewing
the direct link as follows:



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