April 26, 2015

Turkey witnesses paralysis of justice system as court ruling not enforced

Turkey has, perhaps for the first time, seen a public prosecutor prevent the implementation of a court decision, regarding a recent ruling for the release of journalist Hidayet Karaca, the top executive of the Samanyolu Media Group, and 63 police officers who are being held in pre-trial detention at Silivri Prison.

Although an İstanbul court on Saturday night ruled for the release of Karaca and the police officers who have been detained for several months pending trial, the court's ruling was not enforced by the public prosecutors who were on duty on Saturday and Sunday.

Legal experts say it is incomprehensible to block the implementation of a court ruling once it is handed down, noting that such a move is in violation of the law.

İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Hadi Salihoğlu allegedly held an emergency meeting at the İstanbul Courthouse to prevent the entry of the ruling in the judicial network, the National Judiciary Network Project (UYAP).

Former public prosecutor Gültekin Avcı, who is among the lawyers representing Karaca, said nobody can prevent a ruling from being enforced. He said it does not matter whether a court ruling appears in the UYAP system or not, as it is enough for the ruling to be submitted to the prison administrators personally.

Avcı, speaking to the Cihan news agency, said the prosecutor on duty on Saturday night told him that he could not implement the release verdict and "appeared nervous and fearful." Avcı commented that prosecutors are not authorized to override the decisions of judges. "Once again, we are facing a severe violation of the law," Avcı said.

Lawyer Ömer Turanlı, who is among the lawyers representing several jailed police officers, also said any attempt to block the implementation of the court ruling constitutes a crime.

On Sunday, the prosecutor on duty changed, yet the new prosecutor also failed to take the necessary action for the release of Karaca and the jailed police officers.

Fikret Duran, another of Karaca's attorneys, said in a statement read in front of the İstanbul Courthouse on Sunday that the prosecutors are cornered between being sent into professional exile and committing a crime, adding that, on behalf of the Turkish judiciary, he is ashamed of this situation.

He said the lawyers of the suspects for whom release had been ordered could not meet with the prosecutor on duty on Saturday night despite a series of attempts and that the prosecutor told them that Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor Orhan Kapıcı told him not to send the court decision to the Silivri Prison administration to prevent it from being enforced.

Duran said pressure continued when the new prosecutor came on duty on Sunday, and that he also failed to enforce the court's ruling to release their clients.

The lawyer said that public prosecutors have no authority to make an assessment of the court's rulings and prevent their enforcement.

Duran also said that Karaca's lawyers will file a criminal complaint against the prosecutors on duty on Saturday and Sunday, as well as Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor Orhan Kapıcı, on charges of illegally limiting the freedom of his client and that they will also take the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

On Sunday İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Salihoğlu released a written statement describing the İstanbul 32nd Court of First Instance's release decision as null and void based on an earlier ruling from the 10th Penal Court of Peace which rejected the suspects' requests for release and ordered the continuation of their incarceration.

Salihoğlu's statement drew criticism from the lawyers representing Karaca and the jailed police officers.

Attorneys Avcı and Turanlı made a statement later in the day and accused Salihoğlu of laying waste to the law. They said the 10th Penal Court of Peace is a lower court than the İstanbul 32nd Court of First Instance, and as such its decision cannot override that of the higher court.

The lawyers also said that Salihoğlu had committed a crime and gone beyond the scope of his authority by making such a statement. They said Salihoğlu violated Articles 277 and 288 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) regarding intervention in the judiciary.

In the meantime, Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Mahmut Tanal warned on Sunday that the judge who ruled for the release of journalist Karaca and the jailed police officers might be reassigned by the government.

“Unfortunately, judges who have made decisions that the government did not like though they were in compliance with law have either been investigated or reassigned. That judge could also be reassigned,” he said.

Independent deputy Hakan Şükür said the pressure on the members of the judiciary is very obvious. He commented it is like a crisis desk has been set up and orders are sent to it from the government.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 26 April 2015, Sunday