Turkey's political Islamists are trying to sell what used to be an effective, streamlined and improved cooperation between the prosecutor's office and the police force for the purpose of achieving greater prosecutorial success in court as proof that there is a "parallel structure" in the judiciary and police that worked together in exposing the unprecedented massive corruption in the government and as such tried to topple the government.
There are several big holes in this conspiracy claim, which was often used by embattled President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who himself was incriminated in this dragnet as the ringleader. The same narrative was also parroted by his ilk, including his caretaker prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, who billed his terrible performance as head of the government including illegal arms destined for extremist groups in Syria to the same structure.
For one, the prosecutor's office ought to be able to work together with the police force because it does not have its own independent investigators to collect evidence, do research and arrest suspects. It relies on law enforcement agencies, including the police in cities and the gendarmerie in rural areas, both of them acting as judicial police in investigations and remaining accountable to the judicial authorities rather than the executive branch.
In fact, rigorous cooperation was strongly encouraged by the Consultative Council of European Prosecutors (CCPE), an advisory body of the Council of Europe (CoE), of which Turkey is a full member. Similar recommendations were also underlined in the opinions and recommendations of the CoE's Venice Commission, another advisory body on the rule of law and constitutional matters.
Turkey as a government undersigned all these recommendations, pledging to help the prosecutorial service remain independent and to work closely with law enforcement agencies. The CoE's executive body, the Committee of Ministers, adopted on Oct. 6, 2000, a recommendation on the role of public prosecution in the criminal justice system, in which it said, “While the interaction and cooperation must be the key notes in dealings between the public prosecutor and the police, it is also important that the former should have necessary resources to ensure that instructions are complied with and to penalize any failure to comply.”
Therefore, when Turkish leaders argued that there is a group of people within the police and the judiciary that worked together in a conspiratorial plot to topple the government, they actually embarrass themselves in the eyes of our Western allies and partners. It is only natural for a prosecutor who is assigned to a case involving bribery, influence peddling and money laundering charges to work with the financial crime unit of the police force. The same is valid for terrorism, organized crime, drug smuggling and human trafficking cases as relevant units in the prosecutor's office and in the police force naturally pair up.
The criteria here are to have police actions and investigations scrutinized by prosecutors and judges as to whether they comply with the procedures and substance of the law. In fact, the police chiefs who were rounded up and arrested as part of a vindictive campaign by political authorities all advocated a view that they simply complied with the orders of prosecutors and the judgments of the courts. The government has failed to present any evidence that the police acted outside of the law so far.
To make its case appear credible and juicy, the government also attempted to link prosecutors and police chiefs under a hitherto-unheard-of group called the "parallel structure," which allegedly has links to the US, the EU, Israel and popular Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who has been personally critical of the government on corruption woes. There has been no credible evidence presented by the government for over a year that either police chiefs or prosecutors are somehow affiliated with these countries, or Gülen for that matter. All of them have vehemently denied such allegations.
It has become clear that police chiefs had acted under the orders of prosecutors and did their job as defined under the law and regulations as in the case of wiretapping suspects by court orders and putting graft suspects under surveillance. In the Turkish Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK), public prosecutors scrutinize police investigations and decide whether a prosecution should commence or continue. They are involved in each and every step of the investigation. In cases that exposed the government's dirty laundry, prosecutors and the police simply followed the established guidelines.
The real intention of the government is to be able to control prosecutions and prevent ones that may embarrass them. "Parallel paranoia" is simply a catchy campaign slogan to cover up the anti-democratic practices we see in Turkey and to push bills that contradict the CoE's principles, NATO values and EU norms through Parliament under quite a distraction.
The Rome Charter, adopted by the CCPE last year, updated a 2000-dated recommendation on European norms and principles concerning prosecutors, and brought more clarity on guidelines regulating the profession of prosecutors. It said, “Prosecutors should, in any case, be in a position to prosecute, without obstruction, public officials for offences committed by them, particularly corruption, unlawful use of power and grave violations of human rights.”
This was actually borrowed from the UN Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors that was adopted jointly last year by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP). The suspension of all graft prosecutors as well as others who exposed illegal arms trafficking to radical groups in Syria that was secretly funded and supported by Turkish intelligence has clearly violated all the guidelines suggested by the UN and the CoE.
These prosecutors, who have done nothing but conduct constitutionally mandated prosecutorial investigations and comply with the procedures, were publicly ridiculed and viciously attacked by Erdoğan in the aftermath of the corruption scandal that erupted in December 2013. Their private lives were intruded into with fabricated stories that were run in government-subsidized media. They were unjustly subjected to character assassinations and public vilification.
Since these prosecutors were not aligned with the prevailing ideology of political Islamists in the government and were simply doing their jobs rather than turning a blind eye to major wrongdoings, they were reassigned, demoted and now suspended with the likely result of dismissal. This government policy violated the CCPE's main guideline that says, “The recruitment, the promotion and the transfer of prosecutors are carried out according to fair and impartial procedures and excluding discrimination on any grounds such as gender, race, color, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth, or other status.”
Therefore, whether these prosecutors are nationalists, social democrats, Alevis, Kurds or sympathetic with the views of the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu or Fethullah Gülen, it does not matter as long as their personal opinions or background do not interfere with their professional mandate. In fact, my sources tell me that most of the prosecutors who were suspended are nationalists, social democrats and Alevis.
This witch hunt against prosecutors, judges and police chiefs is directed at accomplishing one ultimate goal that Islamists in this country long harbored: turning Turkey into a bastion of political Islamists by rebuilding a corrupt and abusive police force coupled with a partisan, opaque judiciary so that they can sustain their rule forever. They have no conviction whatsoever in alternate government, checks and balances, and a democratic process where everyone is accountable. Erdoğan came up with the "parallel paranoia" to cloak this sinister goal of transforming a moderate Muslim nation into a pariah state ruled by ideological zealots.
The independent judiciary is one of the main barriers in front of Erdoğan's utopia of accomplishing a political Islamist state and as such prosecutors and judges must be subjugated and controlled. He has already subordinated the police force with an unprecedented reshuffle with over 50,000 police officers getting reassigned or purged in a year. Now it is the judiciary's turn, and it appears he has made quite a bit of progress in controlling judges and prosecutors.
Gülen, a moderate Muslim scholar who is strongly opposed to Erdoğan's grand design of an authoritarian and highly ideological state, found himself in the crosshairs. He was made a scapegoat and was vilified in a deliberate campaign of defamation designed by Erdoğan to distract public attention from his own troubles and failures.
If this anti-democratic slide in Turkey cannot be halted, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), another body of the CoE, will find itself as the only court that will be able to adjudicate on violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms as Turkish courts will be cowed into following the government line. The Constitutional Court, the last arbiter on violations through individual petitions to the court, has been under immense pressure by the government.
Many judges and prosecutors who have been trained in the EU/CoE-backed programs have been demoted, sidelined and even transferred to remote locations in the country. The judicial council, under Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, has become a politicized institution, closely linked to President Erdoğan through Bozdağ's personal loyalty to him.
It is only a matter of time before the judiciary yields to total control by Islamists. Prosecutorial independence is gone and criminal investigations have turned into a reliable tool for political intimidation and a witch hunt campaign by Erdoğan and his band of brothers in their political Islamist ideology. That must ring alarm bells for the Strasbourg-based court, because a huge backlog of cases originating from Turkey will be seen in the future, increasing the caseload on the already-burdened court.
Published on Today's Zaman, 19 January 2015, Monday