Some time has passed since the Gülen Movement attempted to overthrow the government through judicial action on Dec. 17, 2013. Although the smear campaign continued until the local elections on March 30, 2014, with significant help from opposition parties, the effort proved futile, as the people saw the organization's real agenda behind the smokescreen of corruption charges. While the great majority did not completely dismiss the possibility of corruption, they nonetheless identified the Dec. 17 operations as a political intervention, which is why the administration received numerous questions after the March 2014 vote about the delays in taking necessary measures.
Such inquiries were obviously fair. After all, the lack of any response against the mass surveillance of thousands of unrelated individuals, eavesdropping on senior government officials, including the president, prime minister and cabinet ministers, a raid against Iraqbound trucks operated by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and the leaking of a top secret meeting at the Foreign Ministry understandably caused outrage among the people.
Last week's developments marked a solid response to the Gülenist Movement as several members of law enforcement who were central to a number of controversial investigations in recent years were arrested. Others have been suspended.
The general sense, however, is that the operation will not be confined to law enforcement, as the illicit activities in question have been facilitated by others within the judiciary and state bureaucracy. In other words, Gülenist policemen alone could not have implemented a plan without support from prosecutors and judges. As a matter of fact, the Dec. 17 operations manifested the close-knit group of prosecutors, law enforcement and judges, who were able to fly under the radar thanks to the Gülenist influence over the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), the Council of State and the Supreme Court of Appeals.
At this point, which marks the zenith of a 40-year-old secret project, cleansing the judiciary of this covert organization represents a greater challenge than elsewhere in the bureaucracy.
The shield of judicial immunity prevents investigations into the affairs of judges and prosecutors. And even if this were the case, Gülen-affiliated judges within the HYSK, the Council of State and the Supreme Court of Appeals would be in a position to block any efforts. That such a blockade could continue for a long time, however, seems unlikely. After all, revelations about the organization and the lack of doubts about the legitimacy of investigations into this anti-democratic clique might encourage some of its operatives to turn against the Gülenists.
Considering that the Constitutional Court repeatedly established that the rights of defendants in the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), Sledgehammer (Balyoz) and Ergenekon trials had been violated, resistance is futile. Most important, protecting judges and prosecutors who exercise their authority according to the demands of a criminal organization comes at a price. The principles of judicial independence and the rule of law do not allow such individuals to serve as judges and prosecutors. As such, future steps in this direction should not be surprising.
Restoring the people's confidence in the judiciary requires the establishment of a class of pro-democracy and pluralistic judges who serve no political party, organization or interest groups but the law itself. This is what Turkey witnessed today.
About the author
Osman Can is a Law Professor and Reporting Judge at the Turkish Constitutional Court. He holds a PhD from the University of Cologne, Germany.