January 26, 2015

Gov’t ignoring court verdicts since Dec. 17 graft scandal

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, various state agencies and a number of municipalities ruled by the AK Party have ignored scores of court decisions regarding their actions since a huge corruption scandal erupted on Dec. 17, 2013.

Despite the fact that the government is determined to ignore court rulings demanding the cancellation or reversal of certain decisions regarding the sale of public land that violates the law, the political authority does not hesitate not to implement the court verdicts.

One recent instance of such arbitrary decision-making by the administration was the Eyüp Municipality, an AK Party municipality, as it ignored a court ruling that allowed the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV)-affiliated Intercultural Dialogue Center (KADIM) to return to an Islamic center it had recently used in İstanbul's Eyüp district. The municipality seized and unlawfully evacuated the building that KADIM was using on Dec. 26, 2014.

In addition to physically forcing the staff to leave the building, the police confiscated all items inside the building. The police officers said at the time that the GYV had made changes to the structure of the premises, which the GYV denies, but even had that been the case, it would have had 30 days to return it to its original state.

The GYV applied to the İstanbul 18th Civil Court of Peace for the KADIM office to resume operations on the premises. The court determined on Jan. 9 that there was no legal obstacle to the GYV using the dialogue center and that the organization could return and resume operations. Officials from the GYV then went to the dialogue center on Jan. 12, but they were forced by officials to leave the premises.

Another instance of ignoring a court decision was linked to the construction of the presidential palace, dubbed the Ak Saray, which was built on land belonging to the Atatürk Forestry Farm (AOÇ) in Ankara, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan challenged an administrative court injunction to halt construction and moved into the palace.

Engaging in a number controversial practices in order to evade a corruption investigation that implicated key government members, Erdoğan and his family in late 2013, the government also launched a "witch hunt" against members of the faith-based Gülen movement (Hizmet movement), which it accused of plotting against the government.

As part of the witch hunt, the government dismissed hundreds of members of the judiciary, civil servants, police officers and school principals. Despite countless court rulings demanding the reinstatement of dismissed personnel to their original posts, the Ministry of Education refused to budge.

Additionally, though the İstanbul 7th Administrative Court ordered work on the ongoing construction of a mosque near the entrance of Validebağ Grove in İstanbul's Üsküdar district to stop, construction was not halted by the Üsküdar Municipality.

Also, the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality, run by the AK Party, demolished the wall of the private Fatih College in the city's Merter neighborhood in order to construct a road through the courtyard of the school last October. A local court ordered local authorities to halt the construction, but the municipality ignored the court's verdict.

Social media banned despite court verdicts

Certain social sharing websites like YouTube and Twitter were blocked last year by the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB), and the Gölbaşı Penal Court of First Instance ruled for lifting Twitter ban. Despite the court ruling, TİB continued to block the sites.

In another unlawful blocking decision on Twitter, TİB once again banned access to the website just after then-Prime Minister Erdoğan harshly criticized and targeted it during his election campaign in the local elections of 2014. The Turkish Bar Association (TBB) applied a court asking the ban on Twitter to be lifted. The Ankara Administrative Court ruled for removal of the ban, but TİB did not respond to the court order for some time.

Similarly, an administrative court in late 2013 ordered the destruction of a number of floors in a residential complex called 16:9 (OnaltıDokuz) that is under construction in the Zeytinburnu district of İstanbul on the grounds that they affect the silhouette of the city.

The İstanbul Fourth Administrative Court ruled for the demolition of the floors of the towers that mar the traditional silhouette of İstanbul, which features the Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace and the Blue Mosque, in the district adjacent to the historic peninsula. However, neither the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality nor the Zeytinburnu Municipality, run by the AK Party, has implemented the court ruling.

The Security General Directorate has banned journalists from entering police departments across the country, and the İstanbul Fourth Administrative Court has ruled for lifting such bans, but the restrictions on members of the press has not been removed.

Two beaches in the south of the country, İztuzu and Ölüdeniz, have been leased to private companies in tenders that were announced in the middle of the night with little or no publicity. A court issued an injunction against the transfer of İztuzu Beach, in Muğla province, from public to private hands; however, the beach has not yet been returned to public management.

The land of TEKEL, the former alcohol and tobacco monopoly, in Antalya, was sold in a controversial public tender. A local court ruled for stop of the sale, but the court decision was ignored and the sale was published in the Official Gazette.

Published on Today's Zaman, 26 January 2015, Monday