March 16, 2015

BBP: Erdoğan admitted Penal Courts of Peace created to fight Hizmet

Grand Unity Party (BBP) Deputy Chairman Remzi Çayır has said that before the presidential election held on Aug. 10 of last year, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan acknowledged that the newly founded Penal Courts of Peace were established to fight against the Gülen movement (Hizmet movement), a civil society movement inspired by the teachings of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

The Penal Courts of Peace, set up by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in June 2014, have received much criticism amid claims that they are instruments designed to enforce the government's wishes by instigating arrests based on the headlines of pro-government newspapers.

Speaking during an event held in Kahramanmaraş province on Saturday, Çayır said Erdoğan visited the AK Party's provincial headquarters on June 25, 2014 to seek support in the upcoming presidential election. Sharing an anecdote about Erdoğan's visit, Çayır said: “Erdoğan said during his visit: ‘We have made a regulation about the Penal Courts of Peace. It is now waiting on the desk of [then-President Abdullah Gül]. When this law is approved, within a week or 10 days, I will do away with these people [Hizmet supporters].' He used these exact words.”

Many recent operations against police officers and journalists have been carried out by the Penal Courts of Peace. Dozens of police officers were arrested in operations that began in July of last year after graft investigations involving close associates of Erdoğan, some Cabinet ministers and Erdoğan's family members were revealed on Dec. 17 and 25, 2013.

Since the Dec. 17 graft scandal erupted, the AK Party government and Erdoğan have been engaging in a battle against the Hizmet movement and police officers and civil servants whom the government considers close to it. They accuse Hizmet of plotting to topple the government. Hizmet strongly denies the charges.

Hundreds of high-ranking police officers have been detained in a series of coordinated raids in more than 20 provinces since July. These officers were involved in the December 2013 anti-corruption operation as well as investigations into the Balyoz (Sledgehammer), Ergenekon, Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) and Tawhid-Salam cases.

The operations against the police, which prosecutors say were launched based on allegations of spying and illegal wiretapping, are widely believed to be an act of retribution by Erdoğan's administration for the anti-corruption investigations.

Ex-high court president: Penal Courts of Peace are illegal

Former Constitutional Court President Haşim Kılıç said at a conference in Ankara on Friday that the Penal Courts of Peace formed by the government are illegal.

Stating that judges today are in constant fear of being relocated and because of this cannot be expected to make fair judgments, Kılıç said: “This will have a price, and someone will have to pay the price so that we can pass on a free and independent judiciary to future generations. Otherwise it [the judiciary] will remain subordinate [to the executive], as it is now.”

In response to a question on whether he would enter active politics, Kılıç said: “I'm already in active politics. Politics is not only done under the auspices of political parties.”

Kılıç resigned from his position as head of the Constitutional Court on account of his age in February and held a press conference shortly after the election of Zühtü Arslan as the court's new head. Kılıç clarified why he chose to resign despite being entitled to serve until March 13. He explained that because of a bylaw, the election for the presidency of the Constitutional Court had to take place in the two-month period before the official end of his tenure. Kılıç said at the time: "So at the moment, there are two presidents [of the top court]. There should not be two presidents under the same roof. I have decided to resign so that my elected colleague can comfortably serve. I submitted my petition to resign today.”

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 15 March 2015, Sunday