The four ex-ministers should be tried, but we should wait for an impartial chief judge at the top court

Published 03.01.2015 01:05

On Monday a special parliamentary commission will decide if four former cabinet ministers of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) will be sent to the Supreme Court to face corruption, favoritism and misuse of office charges or if will they be off the hook.

The government of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu seems to favor a ruling that will send the ministers to trial and thus give them the opportunity to clear their names.

However, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his colleagues seem to feel that a trial will also mean the suggestion of some form of guilt for the past Erdoğan cabinet, where the four ministers were serving in December 2013.

Erdoğan and his men say they were the victims of a massive plot staged by the Gülen Movement to topple the government in a coup using police and prosecutors loyal to the movement.

However, in all this there is a big "but" that is unfortunately a situation unique for Turkey. In a normal democracy no government or president would stand in the way of a fair trial for ministers facing serious charges. But when the situation is Turkey the picture changes, especially when the chief justice who will preside over the trial gives every indication that he is a sworn enemy of Erdoğan and the government and will do everything to destroy them. Constitutional Court Chief Justice Haşim Kılıç is an old friend. He has been a champion of the democratic cause in Turkey for ages. But in the past year he has changed so much so that while he was an ardent supporter of the government he is now one of its arch enemies. The interview he gave to opposition daily Sözcü on Friday clearly shows the enmity he feels for Erdoğan and the government. Can he be expected to conduct a fair trial under these circumstances? We feel the Constitutional Court, which is also the Supreme Court should not take up the case if the parliamentary commission decides on a trial until Kılıç retires in March due to old age. Or else with the current state of affairs there are fears that Kılıç may turn the trial into a vendetta case against Erdoğan and the government. Another solution could be for Kılıç to retire immediately. Our dear fiend Haşim Kılıç should go out being remembered as a judicial hero who always championed the cause of democracy.

It is true that the prosecutors, some judges and the security teams used during the so-called corruption crackdown on Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 security operations were "out to get the government" at all costs and eventually topple the Erdoğan government and even go as far as to imprison Erdoğan himself.

The Gülen Movement had tried to topple the government a year before by trying to grab the head of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT) Hakan Fidan for holding secret negotiations with the PKK to launch the current reconciliation process between Turks and Kurds. That failed and the plot was foiled. But it was a wake-up call for the government, which seems to have been too sluggish to react and thus having to face the prospects of another devastating coup attempt in December 2013.

It is true that the aim of the December 2013 mess was to topple Erdoğan and his adversaries used corruption charges against the ministers to launch this operation. However, it also seems true that there is some corruption and irregularities regarding these ministers that have also caught the public eye. The right thing to do seems to be to send these ministers to court and show the public that the AK Party will not hesitate to see justice prevail under any circumstance. The hearings of a special parliamentary commission have shown too many grey areas where the former ministers, Zafer Çağlayan, Egemen Bağış, Muammer Gülen and Erdoğan Bayraktar, should do some earnest explaining, not only to the supreme court, but to the Turkish nation.

If they did anything wrong, then they have to pay the price, and if they are clean, then let the Supreme Court absolve them of any wrongdoing.

However, this should not be turned into a witch hunt trying to link the ministers to Erdoğan and his colleagues by anyone, especially Chief Justice Kılıç. No one should try to use it as ammunition to harm Erdoğan for political reasons. If this is done Erdoğan will naturally hit back and use all the means at his disposal and justice will never prevail in a real sense.

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