Turkish legal system up for an overhaul

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The Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) ruined the Turkish legal system by installing its judges and prosecutors in key courts, securing verdicts in favor of its supporters and ruining the lives of its adversaries. Prosecutors worked with Gülenist policemen to plant fake evidence and to send several people to jail, while they collected plenty of incriminating material against the adversaries of the gang. The situation had reached crisis proportions with Gülenist judges producing scandalous verdicts that shaped our political, economic and social lives.

It all ended when the gang launched the failed bloody coup of July 15, 2016 that resulted in a major crackdown on all the Gülenists that were holed up in state offices as well as in the judiciary, police and military.

Now, like every other state body, the judiciary is also recuperating. Thanks to the sacrifices and hard work of independent judges in Turkey, the system was revived with minimal damage, and Turkish courts are now functioning well. The cases against the coup plotters have been accelerated, and we are seeing major convictions.

Despite some progress, everyone agrees that the system still needs a major overhaul. What we have is acceptable, but we need the best legal system, so citizens feel safe knowing that justice always prevails in Turkey.

The system was too sluggish and needed reforms to speed up the court hearings and get a verdict. In many cases, courts took years to finalize a case which meant delays, suffering and losses. Now, that is changing. As of Monday, courts are required to tell those involved in any case the maximum duration of the trials and when to expect a verdict. If this is not done, the judge will face an investigation.

In addition, the Justice Ministry is working on a project to enhance the skills of young judges who will be trained for three years before handling any cases. This will mean better judgement in cases and more attention to the trials.

The Justice Ministry is also encouraging a pretrial arbitration process that will take the workload off the courts. The system is already operational in some cases but will be expanded to other cases, as well.

The new judicial year opened on Monday with a ceremony where the head of the Court of Cassation, İsmail Rüştü Cirit, addressed the event and talked about the importance of raising qualified legal officials and jurists "since they are the most important guarantors of the legal system and democracy." He further added that the recent Gülenist coup attempt proved how important it was for the judiciary to be clear, transparent and open to the public.

He also had words about the U.S. demanding the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who is on trial for terrorism and espionage charges. He stressed the only legal body with the power to determine a foreigner's detention in Turkey is the country's independent, objective courts. He stressed that leaving the control of the judiciary, which works on behalf of the Turkish people, in the hands of any other authority in or outside of the state would be the end of its sovereignty.

So, we – including Washington – must put our trust in the Turkish judiciary.

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