The 13th Assize Court of Istanbul, vested with exceptional powers, has been dismantled in line with legislation recently adopted by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, together with all other exceptional tribunals. The latter have always been a problem in the Turkish judiciary system. Mostly used by exceptional period administrations, like the military government that established Yassıada Courts in the aftermath of the 1960 coup, these courts have been used to tame any opposition movement. In between the years 1961 and 1984, more than 100 death sentences issued by these courts were carried out, including the "legal" assassination of an elected prime minister and two of his ministers.
State Security Courts, which include military judges and civilian judges, are capable of trying civilians accused of offenses such as "terrorism." Over the past few decades, first the death penalty was abolished, then State Security Courts annulled. However, Assize Courts, with their exceptional powers, remained until they were disbanded a couple of years ago. Still, the existence of these tribunals has been prolonged in the sense that they were permitted to continue trying cases which had already been brought before them.
The "de facto" prolongation of these courts has proven to be extremely hazardous for the judicial system, as has been shown by the incredible arrogance and disdain of the 13th Assize Court president. He plainly declared, putting aside all judicial and democratic traditions, that the Parliament had no authority to abrogate the exceptional tribunals.
According to Justice Hasan Hüseyin Özese, such a retraction is contrary to the constitution and the court will appeal to the Constitutional Court to annul the legislation.
It goes without saying that no tribunal has the right to address the Constitutional Court for the abrogation of such legislation, however, this incredible anecdote shows the extent and the depth of the "parallel organization" in the judiciary.
An open and peremptory defying of the rule of law and the legal administration could have been seen as a political anecdote, like the event that happened in Greece. On Feb. 5, 1978, after a more than two-month siege by police officers who wanted to arrest him, an anarchist figure, Doctor Vasilis Tsironis, declared his apartment "an independent state" and set up megaphones on his balcony from which he gave long "war communiques" against the "fascist state." Day after day, large crowds would gather in the evening to listen to him. Several times snipers opened fire on the megaphones in order to silence him but the doctor continued to incite the people to insurrection. He also wanted people wishing to visit his "independent state" to ask for visas from the building's concierge. He ultimately was shot dead by police.
What is happening in Turkey is definitely less amusing. Senior judges openly defy the Parliament, on the grounds that exceptional tribunals of cannot be disbanded. Not only is this a blunt intervention of the judiciary in the domain of the legislative power but it also illustrates the degree of assertiveness of this "pirate opposition" within the state apparatus.
The government now will have a hard time as it works to comprehensively reform the judiciary, a move needed for Turkey to have a functioning democracy worthy of a country aiming to become an EU member.