Despite drawbacks, closure of special courts boosts rule of law
by Nurbanu Kızıl
Mar 12, 2014 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Nurbanu Kızıl
Mar 12, 2014 12:00 am
Legal reforms recently enacted to end injustices perpetrated by Specially Authorized Courts will end arbitrary rule of renegade judges despite the storm caused by the release of accused gang leaders and murderers
The regulationlimiting imprisonment without charge to five years and abolishing Turkey's Specially Authorized Courts (ÖYMs) has resulted in the release of detainees imprisoned in a number of high-profile cases, including Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer). So far, a total of 19 people detained under the Ergenekon case have been released. The regulations imposed by the new law have been shaped under the scope of the European Union's demands in order for Turkey to improve its democratic standards. Among those released are journalist and politician Tuncay Özkan, retired official Levent Göktaş, far-right and organized crime leader Sedat Peker, Kemal Kerinçsiz, retired official Dursun Çiçek, leader of the socialist Workers' Party Doğu Perinçek, retired general Hurşit Tolon who was the commander of the first army of Turkey, and Durmuş Ali Özoğlu who is the vice-president of the Kuvayı Milliye Association.
The releaserequests of Veli Küçük, Levent Ersöz, Bedri Gültekin, S. Öztürk, Hasan Yıldırım and Erkan Önsel were denied. Significant statements were made by the released, including Doğu Perinçek and Tuncay Özkan. While Perinçek expressed his desire to destroy the "divisive" government ruled by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Abdullah Gül, and establish an "independent, united, modern, populist and revolutionary" Turkey, Tuncay Özkan stated he has no intention to seek revenge and would like to embrace Turkey for a better future. "Turkey will be a different Turkey from now on," Tuncay Özkan said, also criticizing prosecutors for preventing his release.
President Abdullah Gül commented on the release in a meeting with Akın Birdal, a former parliament member for the Democratic Society Party and the Peace and Democracy Party, and an honorary president of the Human Rights Association of Turkey.
Gül expressed his concern about the release of five people charged in the Zirve Yayınevi murder case, including Abuzer Yıldırım, Salih Gürler, Cuma Özdemir, Hamit Çeker and Emre Günaydın and stated that it is morally wrong and disturbing to release individuals who have been charged with ruthlessly killing people by cutting their throats. Gül also noted that the government will be taking measures to ensure that those with forensics reports proving serious health problems will be released.
The release of those charged under multiple cases has been denied by the courts, including Alparslan Aslan and retired official Dursun Çiçek who are convicted of other charges. For instance, Hurşit Tolon's release in light of his Ergenekon charges was denied due to the fact that he has also been charged in the Zirve Yayınevi murder case, while Semih Tufan Gülaltay's request to be released has also been denied. Semih Tufan Gülaltay, the founder of the militant Turkish Revenge Brigade and the National Unity Party, who was sentenced to 19 years in prison for the attempted murder in 1998 of Akın Birdal, was also denied release on the grounds that he has not completed the five year imprisonment period.
The Third Chamber of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) is planning to initiate an investigation into the president and members of the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court for rejecting the parliament's decision to close the court. Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ commented on the issue and criticized the court members for rejecting to abide by parliamentary decisions. "Everyone is obliged to abide by the laws made by the parliament," said Bozdağ, stating that legal authorities who violate the application and principles of these laws unlawfully overstep their authority.
Criminal lawyer Dr. Ersan Şen has recently commented on and evaluated the implications of the new regulations and releases to Turkey's Daily Star newspaper. He expressed that there is currently a squabble between the courts where one refuses to submit certain cases requested by another on the grounds that the latter does not have the authority to do so. "Courts are only made and abolished through the law and a court which has been abolished by law has no legitimate authority because judges are not above the law," said Dr. Şen, emphasizing the significance of the parliament as a lawmaking body.
On the other hand, he highlighted the fact that the new regulations have paved the way for setting a precedent, touching upon the implications of the release.
According to Dr. Şen, the releases do not imply acquittal or exculpation, but only serve as a precautionary measure to ensure that innocent people are not victimized. Those released will, however, be required to wear electronic bracelets, make daily visits to the police station and be prohibited from leaving the country as security measures until their cases are finalized.
The releases were a direct result of the law approved by president Gül to abolish Turkey's Specially Authorized Courts under the scope of the democratization package initiated by the AK Party. It aims to enhance the justice system and rule of law in Turkey, considered to be essential factors in the country's harmonization with the European Union accession process.