April 27, 2015

Politicians, press unions slam delay in implementation of ruling to release Karaca

Efforts by pro-government judicial members not to implement a Saturday court ruling for the release of Samanyolu Broadcasting Group Chairman Hidayet Karaca and 63 police officers who are being held in pre-trial detention at Silivri Prison have drawn strong criticisms from representatives of political parties and press unions.

In a development that has raised hopes about the independence of the judiciary, which has been significantly shaken by constant political meddling, the İstanbul 29th Court of First Instance on Saturday ruled for the release of Karaca and 63 police officers arrested in operations targeting the police force starting on July 22 of last year.

Although the court ruled for the release of Karaca and the police officers, the court's ruling was not enforced by the public prosecutors who were on duty on Saturday and Sunday. İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Hadi Salihoğlu allegedly held an emergency meeting at the İstanbul Courthouse to prevent the ruling from being entered into judicial network the National Judiciary Network Project (UYAP).

These efforts have drawn ire among politicians, who say the efforts to prevent a court ruling from being enforced are completely illegal.

Speaking during a TV show in the early hours of Sunday, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Mahmut Tanal said: “Although the recent court decision should have been welcomed, a form of ‘revenge' law is being applied at the prosecutor's office against those who were released. The extraordinary meeting at the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office is an indication of this.”

Urging for the court ruling to be implemented in the shortest possible time, Tanal added: “Just like firefighters who are authorized to extinguish a fire as soon as possible, the court decision to release should be implemented at the same speed. The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office is trying to block the implementation of court rulings by applying pressure on the judiciary. A few minutes ago, they even attacked those press members who tried to inform the public about the court's ruling. Perhaps the same attacks are ongoing while I am giving this press statement here, because every corner of the courthouse has been put under a police blockade. The fact that the chief public prosecutor held an extraordinary meeting following the release ruling of the court is a scandal, legally speaking.”

Another CHP lawmaker Ali Serindağ harshly criticized the government for delaying the implementing of the court ruling, calling the government's reluctance to implement the ruling a “collapse of the justice system” in Turkey. According to Serindağ: “A court hands down a decision and another judicial body declares this decision null and void. Such a thing cannot happen. Unfortunately, this shows that the Turkish judicial system no longer gives us any confidence or is even operational. This is very saddening. If the judicial system collapses in this country, it is impossible for people to have any hope about their future. It is a very serious situation.”

Serindağ also said a prosecutor cannot examine a decision given by a court in normally operating law systems, adding: “We are living in a country where the Constitution is suspended by the president and the law is being degraded.”

Noting that Karaca went to the police station in İstanbul to surrender himself on Dec. 14 last year as soon as he heard that a detention order was issued against him, CHP deputy Mehmet Şeker said: “There is no longer anything in Turkey that can be called ‘the law' at all. The courts operate on orders. Another court wants to keep a person who was released by an earlier court. For God's sake, these people came and surrendered voluntarily. Since last night, a murder of the law has been committed.”

Hakan Şükür, an independent deputy for İstanbul who resigned from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in December of 2013, said the law is being slaughtered at the hands of pro-government judicial members so as not to implement a court decision to release the suspects in a trial.

“You are committing a sin both in the eyes of God and the public conscience. You can block the implementation of a court decision via a coup against the judiciary. Are you staging a coup against the judiciary? There is no return from the court's release decision,” Şükür added.

Independent deputy and former AK Party Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay said he finds the court decision pleasing, emphasizing that each of those who are involved in the delay in enforcing the court decision to release Karaca and the others are committing a crime.

Posting tweets on his Twitter account on Sunday, Grand Unity Party (BBP) leader Mustafa Destici urged for an implementation of the court decision in the shortest time possible. “Justice cannot be delayed, it should serve. I hope the court decisions given to remove the victimization of those people who were kept under arrest for months will be immediately enforced.”

Harsh criticisms from press unions and journalists

Mustafa Yeşil, the president of the Journalists and Writers Foundation's (GYV), told Today's Zaman “those who want to maintain their unlawful reign have become very disturbed by the recent court ruling” to release Karaca and 75 police officers.

Saying that the court decision is very satisfying, Yeşil said: “People have lost so much faith in the judiciary that they are very happy to see that the Turkish judiciary is still struggling to survive in addition to the happiness over the release of innocent people. Get better soon! Those press members who have been ignoring the decision of release will be the silent circles who will lose their right to speak in the future democratic Turkey.”

Yeşil also asked whether it is possible to expect justice from those judicial members who do not implement the law, adding that the efforts of some pro-government judicial members to cancel the court decision to release Karaca and the others is evidence of the innocence of those who have been released.

Zaman editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanlı, who was detained on Dec. 14 as part of a government-backed police operation against high-level media along with Karaca and was released pending trial on Dec. 19 when Karaca was arrested, said the recent court decision has showed people there is still something to hope for the independence of the Turkish judiciary, adding that no one can say they will not release people in an arbitrary manner.

Saying that those people had already been arrested unlawfully by the “project courts” specially set up by the ruling party, Dumanlı said the fact that indictments against those arrested have not yet been prepared for months shows that these investigation files are empty and baseless, adding that these investigations were launched in a “chain of command that is reminiscent of coup eras.”

The penal courts of peace are also known as “project courts” because they were set up by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in June 2014 specifically to fight against the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement and inspired by the teachings of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. The government accuses the movement of being behind the corruption investigations that became public on Dec. 17, 2013 and in which various government officials and pro-government businessmen are implicated.

“This project [the penal courts of peace] has led the Constitutional Court to lose its composure. Even if the decisions given by those courts are not lifted by the top court, these decisions would surely be cancelled by the European Court of Human Rights [ECtHR]. As soon as this vicious circle disappears and the case reaches a jurist with a conscience, such a decision [for release] was already expected to be given. Tonight [Saturday], the court handed down this ruling, which is like a manifesto,” said Dumanlı, defining the court decision as a turning point in the Turkish legal system.

Press Council President Pınar Türenç, also posted a tweet over the release decision for Karaca, stating that the Press Council welcomes Karaca's the ruling, which should have happened much earlier. "Justice has been served eventually, despite being late," Türenç said.

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