Turkey's legal system faces massive challenges

Published 05.09.2017 23:51

Depleted by the sacking of corrupt judges and prosecutors who were part of the Fetullah Gülen gang that staged a bloody coup attempt in Turkey in 2016, the Turkish judiciary is struggling to bolster its ranks with new judges and prosecutors while coping with the massive backlog of cases that has to be finalized

The judiciary had turned into a great mess prior to the 2016 coup attempt with the judges and prosecutors who were affiliated to the Fetullah Gülen gang favoring its supporters throughout Turkey and issuing scandalous verdicts that showed the legal system had collapsed in Turkey.

Prosecutors were arresting opponents of the Fetullah Gülen gang and putting them in prison in a very arbitrary manner. Businessmen and other individuals affiliated to the gang were favored in court and they would always win their cases, thus butchering the judicial system. People had lost faith in the courts and the legal system.

After the coup attempt, the government used its powers through the State of Emergency rules to weed out the corrupt judges and prosecutors and bring some sanity into our judiciary.

But the challenges remain. First there are still the sleeper cells of the Gülen gang who are also embedded in the judiciary and have managed to evade detection. Some recent court cases where surprise verdicts favored the supporters of the gang have clearly proven this.

Then there is the challenge to replace the corrupt judges and prosecutors of the gang who were fired by the government. That is easier said than done. It is not a big deal to enroll new judges and prosecutors but most will be at the apprentice stage and will need years of experience and training to handle tough cases.

That is a serious problem for the Justice Ministry and the Council of Judges and Prosecutors that has to regulate the activities of the judicial personnel, especially at a time when there are so many cases to be taken care of, including the lost list of court cases of the Fetullah Gülen gang who were caught red handed while staging the coup attempt.

But the judiciary has done a fine job handling these very intricate cases where the gang members who were caught red handed in the coup attempt used evasive tactics to stall the courts.

On the one side you have the sensitivities of a public that demands revenge against the coup plotters who terrorized the masses during the night of July 15, 2016, when 250 people lost their lives and more than 2,000 were wounded. On the other side you have judicial rules where the suspects have to be given a fair trial and should be able to use all the instruments of a legal defense. The judges of these trials have managed to keep that delicate balance walking on thin ice.

The Justice Ministry is also working hard to improve the judicial system introducing substantial reforms. The new regulation that ends open ended court cases and sets the rule that verdicts have to be given during a specific time and has to be declared to the defendants is a major reform. This will ensure court cases will not drag on for years.

The justice system is recuperating from a massive trauma. Yet no one is arrested and sent to jail in an arbitrary manner. Everything is based on evidence and hard facts. That is why it is strange to see main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu staging a march and a conference to seek justice in Turkey.

This is the picture of the Turkish judiciary as we start a brand new judicial year. We have problems but we are doing a fine job dealing with them.

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