April 27, 2015

Reacting to Karaca case, EU reminds Turkey of its commitments

The European Union has reacted to the refusal to release Samanyolu Broadcasting Group's Chairman Hidayet Karaca and a group of police officers, despite a court decision.

Answering a question by Today's Zaman, EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn's spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic reminded Turkey of its commitments as a candidate country in particular to principles of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. Stressing that the EU was closely following the unfolding developments, Kocijancic said Brussels was expecting the case to be dealt with in a transparent manner and in conformity with relevant judicial rules.

Kocijancic responded: “The Commission is closely following these developments. We would like to use this opportunity to recall the principles of the rule of law, including the independence of the judiciary, to which Turkey, as an EU candidate country, has committed to. We hope the case will be dealt with in a transparent manner and in full clarity, in line with relevant judicial rules and procedures and in conformity with the Turkish constitution.”

EP Greens co-president: Judiciary in Turkey a gov't instrument

Co-President of the Greens Group in the European Parliament (EP) Rebecca Harms, commenting on the Turkish authorities' refusal to release journalist Hidayet Karaca and dozens of imprisoned police officers, despite a court ruling, has said the incident shows that the judiciary has become an instrument of the government in the country. In an interview with the private Cihan news agency, Harms said that although the judiciary should be a guarantee of the rule of law, it has been an instrument of the Turkish government. Stating that the latest incident is one of the worst developments that can be seen democratic countries, Harms said she believes the move aims to intimidate journalists.

Although the İstanbul 32nd Court of First Instance on Saturday evening ruled for the release of Karaca and 75 imprisoned police officers who have been kept under pre-trial detention for months, despite a lack of evidence to warrant their incarceration, the court's ruling was not enforced by public prosecutors who were on duty on Saturday and Sunday, in a move that drew strong reactions.

The move has raised concerns, causing critics to accuse the Turkish judicial system of becoming chaotic and entirely political. Karaca's lawyer, Fikret Duran, told the Cihan news agency that a prosecutor cannot override a judge's decision and that he is set to take the issue to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE) President Sir Graham Watson described the refusal by a prosecutor to release Karaca despite a court order as a "travesty of justice.” Speaking to Today's Zaman on Sunday, Sir Graham said: "For İstanbul's chief prosecutor not to recognize the court's judgment in the Hidayet Karaca case is a travesty of justice. [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan's new appointees seem more concerned about pleasing their benefactor than with seeing justice done.”

Samanyolu Broadcasting Group head Karaca was detained as part of a major media crackdown on Dec. 14, 2014, just three days before the first anniversary of the massive corruption investigations of Dec. 17 and 25, 2013. The year preceding the major crackdown on the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group and Turkey's best-selling daily Zaman was marked by the Turkish government using all possible means to muzzle the country's remaining free and independent media to prevent questions about corruption.

In the Dec. 14 crackdown, which targeted 27 people, including scriptwriters and a graphic designer, Karaca and three former police chiefs were eventually arrested on charges of leading a terrorist network, while other detainees, including Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı, were later released pending trial.

Published on Today's Zaman, 27 April 2015, Monday