February 8, 2015

Clear intervention in judiciary

Günal Kurşun

The arbitrary actions and operations of the administration have been systematic and widespread over the last two years in Turkey. Though we saw and criticized this arbitrariness in the past, it became truly systematic and widespread after Dec. 17 and 25 because of the atmosphere of panic among the Justice and Development Party (AKP). They believe that if they somehow lose their positions of power in the government, all of their corrupt practices will be seen by the public. They have instead blamed the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, rather than confront their own actions and operations, which created the filth.

However, these wrongdoings are now seen by all. Everyone still remembers the audio tapes alleged to be that of the president, four ex-ministers and their families. Inside the judiciary there are still independent, impartial judges and public prosecutors, who are a minority at the moment. Simply put, they are under threat and if they act against the AKP they know they will be replaced by members of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), which is under government control. Just imagine that you are an honest prosecutor or judge, who seeks to initiate a case against an illegal action by the government. You know that the HSYK will send you to a courthouse in a small village immediately and a much more “moderate” colleague of yours will take your position. You do not have the tenure of a judge. Maybe you have children that you want to send to a good school for a level of education that they would never get in a town that small. Would you be able to act independently and impartially?

In Turkey there are approximately 15,000 judges and prosecutors, and in the last year more than 3,500 of them have been replaced by members of the HSYK. After the Dec. 17 and 25, 2013 operations, 166 judges and prosecutors were immediately replaced on Feb. 11, 2014. On June 11, 2014, 2,517 judges and public prosecutors were replaced and another 888 were replaced on Jan. 15, 2015. Dozens of customized orders have been issued by the HSYK between these dates to replace key figures on important files.

Last month there was a meeting in Ankara during which the president of the Court of Cassation, Ali Alkan, said that frequently reshuffled judges won't feel safe. "It is impossible for a judge to feel safe if his position is changed two or three times a year," Alkan said, stressing that it is also impossible for an individual to consider the judiciary's objectivity a guarantee when it is thought to be under political influence. He warned that judges who make their decisions based on their personal views, opinions, faith and sects rather than on an objective analysis of the existing laws will cause irreversible damage. During Alkan's speech, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, having already made his presentation, was seen exiting the hall.

After the government's operation against Bank Asya, I learned yesterday that two of the three judges who saw the related case file in the Ankara 8th Administrative Court have been replaced after a decision was made by the HSYK a few days ago. The main reason for this tailor-made decree is that the judges had ordered that the relevant documents from the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) and the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) be brought to the court. The HSYK sent one judge to the tax court and the other to the 17th Administrative Court. It will not be a surprise if the court cancels its previous order tomorrow.

Two weeks ago, we saw on TV that US Supreme Court judges did not stand up for President Barack Obama after his speech in Congress. This made the news in Turkey with commentators showing admiration for the move. Spanish poet Solomon ibn Gabirol says, “Kings may be judges of the earth, but wise men are the judges of kings.” We are in extreme need of an independent and impartial judiciary.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 08 February 2015, Sunday