April 30, 2015

Detention orders issued for judges who ruled for release of journalist, police officials

Detention orders were issued on Thursday for two judges who ruled for the release of journalist Hidayet Karaca and 63 police officials who have been kept in pre-trial detention for months.

Some reports said İstanbul 29th Court of First Instance judge Metin Özçelik has already been detained while Judge Mustafa Başer from the İstanbul 32nd Court of First Instance is being sought by the police. Reached by phone, Özçelik was quoted as saying by the Zaman daily that he was going to the Bakırköy Courthouse after a call by Bakırköy Deputy Public Prosecutor İdris Kurt.

The İstanbul 32nd Court of First Instance ruled on Saturday evening for the release of a total of 64 suspects -- Samanyolu Broadcasting Group CEO Karaca and 63 police officers -- who have been held in pre-trial detention for months despite a lack of evidence about their involvement in any crime.

However, after apparent government intervention, public prosecutors over the weekend refused to apply the court order. The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office claimed that the İstanbul 32nd Court of First Instance's order to release the suspects was void as the court was not authorized to rule on the issue. The İstanbul 10th Penal Court of Peace, which was on duty on Saturday, also issued a verdict that said the İstanbul 29th Court of First Instance is not authorized to determine whether a judge in a penal court of peace can be replaced.

The Second Chamber of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), the country's top judicial administrative body, announced on Monday that the judges of the İstanbul 32nd Court of First Instance and the İstanbul 29th Court of First Instance were removed.

The HSYK announcement came very shortly after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the HSYK was actually late in convening to intervene on the issue.

Özçelik, the judge who had accepted a petition by the lawyers of Karaca and 63 police chiefs for a replacement of the judges hearing their clients' cases at the penal courts of peace, earlier said his decision is within the boundaries of the laws and that he never handed down unlawful rulings in his career.

Karaca was detained as part of a major media crackdown on Dec. 14, 2014, while the imprisoned police officials were detained in operations starting on July 22, 2014 on charges of spying and illegal wiretapping in two separate probes. They were later arrested.

Published on Today's Zaman, 30 April 2015, Thursday