April 27, 2015

EP Greens co-president: Judiciary in Turkey a gov’t instrument

Co-President of the Greens Group in the European Parliament (EP) Rebecca Harms, commenting on the Turkish authorities' refusal to release journalist Hidayet Karaca and dozens of imprisoned police officers despite a court ruling, has said the incident shows that the judiciary has become an instrument of the government in the country.

In an interview with the private Cihan news agency, Harms said although the judiciary should be a guarantee of the rule of law, it has been an instrument of the Turkish government. Stating that the latest incident is one of the worst developments that can be seen democratic countries, Harms said she believes the move aims to intimidate journalists.

Although the İstanbul 32nd Court of First Instance on Saturday evening ruled for the release of Karaca and 75 imprisoned police officers who have been kept under pre-trial detention for months despite a lack of evidence to support their incarceration, the court's ruling was not enforced by public prosecutors who were on duty on Saturday and Sunday, in a move that drew strong reactions.

The move has raised concerns, causing critics to say the Turkish judicial system has become chaotic and entirely political. Karaca's lawyer, Fikret Duran, told the Cihan news agency that a prosecutor cannot override a judge's decision and that he is set to take the issue to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE) President Sir Graham Watson described the refusal by a prosecutor to release Karaca despite a court order as a "travesty of justice.” Speaking to Today's Zaman on Sunday, Sir Graham said: "For İstanbul's chief prosecutor not to recognize the court's judgment in the Hidayet Karaca case is a travesty of justice. [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan's new appointees seem more concerned about pleasing their benefactor than with seeing justice done.”

Samanyolu Broadcasting Group head Karaca was detained as part of a major media crackdown on Dec. 14, 2014, just three days before the first anniversary of the massive corruption investigations of Dec. 17 and 25, 2013. The year preceding the major crackdown on the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group and Turkey's best-selling daily Zaman was marked by the Turkish government using all possible means to muzzle the country's remaining free and independent media to prevent questions about corruption.

In the Dec. 14 crackdown, which targeted 27 people, including scriptwriters and a graphic designer, Karaca and three former police chiefs were eventually arrested on charges of leading a terrorist network, while other detainees, including Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı, were later released pending trial.

Published on Today's Zaman, 27 April 2015, Monday