May 4, 2015

Speaker Çiçek says he supports release of Karaca and police officers

Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek has stated that he is in favor of the release of Samanyolu Broadcasting Group CEO Hidayet Karaca, who has been under arrest since Dec. 19 of last year, saying that in the best interests of the nation the rule of law must be implemented, referencing an obstruction of a recent high court motion to grant Karaca and 63 police officers release pending trial.

“I am in favor of everyone being released from prison. Instead of keeping people behind bars for months and then setting them free as if nothing happened, courts must heed laws and regulations from the outset. On March 25, 2007, I stated that the worst thing that could happen to a country is the politicization of justice. Today we suffer from such a problem,” Çiçek stated in an interview with the Hürriyet daily on May 4, alluding to the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) overt grip on the judiciary.

Karaca, who is currently being held in Silivri Prison without any indictment, and with no reason for the recent extension of his detainment, was arrested as part of a major media crackdown on Dec. 14, 2014.

The İstanbul 32nd Court of First Instance ruled to release Karaca and the police officers on Saturday evening. However, the court's ruling was not enforced by the public prosecutors who were on duty on Saturday and Sunday, in a move that is difficult to explain legally, dealing yet another blow to the rule of law in Turkey. Moreover, another judge who was temporarily appointed to the İstanbul 32nd Court of First Instance by the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) has ruled to revoke the release order.

When asked to confirm rumors that he had invited the imprisoned Karaca to a ceremony that is traditionally held by the parliament speaker every year on April 23 to commemorate National Sovereignty and Children's Day, Çiçek said this was a mistake made by an official in charge of sending invitations. “Every year we send around 2,000 invitations. There is a list that should be updated every year. However, an irresponsible and uninformed official sent Karaca an invitation,” Çiçek said.

Addressing recent accusations, sparked by remarks from Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, that he had visited self-exiled Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen at his home in Pennsylvania in 2013 with the knowledge of then-President Abdullah Gül, Çiçek denied ever having visited, but said that he had attended several events hosted by Gülen. “I am a politician and I talk to everybody. I have never visited him, but I have met him at several events in the past. I meet everyone and I call a spade a spade. We need to get rid of discourses of personal affiliation in Turkey and focus on broader issues,” Çiçek attested.

Davutoğlu told the press last week that he himself had visited Gülen, warning him to “remain on a legitimate basis,” and inviting him to return to Turkey. “I invited him to return but he refused, saying that it was not yet time. I now understand that he was waiting until December, hoping to return like [Iran's former Supreme Leader Ayatollah] Khomeini,” Davutoğlu told the press, alluding to a graft scandal that became public on Dec. 17, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, several close associates and businesspeople affiliated with the government.

However, Erdoğan and the AK Party government blame the Hizmet movement -- also known as the Gülen movement, as it is inspired by Gülen -- for masterminding the corruption probes. In this environment, many government officials have behaved as if it were a crime to have visited Gülen.

Published on Today's Zaman, 04 May 2015, Monday