April 27, 2015

Prisoners not released despite court order voice frustration over unlawfulness

Police officers and a senior journalist who remain behind bars despite a recent high court decision to grant their release pending trial have said that they are “captives,” as there are no legal grounds for them to be held under arrest.

Although the İstanbul 32nd Court of First Instance on Saturday evening ruled for the release of Samanyolu Broadcasting Group CEO Hidayet Karaca and 63 police officers who have been kept under pre-trial detention for months despite a lack of evidence to substantiate their incarceration, the court's ruling was not enforced by the public prosecutors who were on duty on Saturday and Sunday in a move that is hard to explain legally and is likely another blow to the principle of adherence to the rule of law in Turkey.

On Sunday, İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Hadi Salihoğlu released a written statement describing the İstanbul 32nd Court of First Instance's release decision as null and void based on an earlier ruling from the 10th Criminal Court of Peace, which rejected the suspects' requests for release pending trial and ordered the continuation of their imprisonment.

Former İstanbul Police Department Financial Crimes Unit Chief Yakup Saygılı said on Monday that the refusal of the prosecutors to comply with a court order demonstrated that those detained were not arrestees but “captives.”

“If there were the rule of law we would not have been arrested. Because of that we didn't have any hope or expectation that we would be released. However, with this decision [by of the prosecutors not to abide by the decision of a higher court], our status in the prison has changed to “captives.” We believe that this captivity will end,” Saygılı's lawyer Murat Erdoğan told reporters on behalf of his client on Monday.

In a series of posts on Twitter on Sunday, Karaca wrote that the prosecutors who did not comply with the release order of the court will deeply regret making such a decision.

“These injustices are recorded in history. The entire world knows that I was arrested with a political decision [of a court] not grounded in law. The entire world sees that by not abiding by the release decision [of a court], a political decision has been made,” wrote Karaca.

“The power should rest with the law. If law becomes subservient to the powerful, it cannot be deemed law anymore,” continued Karaca.

Karaca, who is being held in Silivri Prison without reasonable evidence for his arrest or any cause provided for the extension of his period in custody, was detained as part of a major media crackdown on Dec. 14, 2014, just three days before the first anniversary of massive corruption investigations revealed to the public on Dec. 17 and 25, 2013.

The year before the major crackdown on the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group as well as Turkey's best-selling Zaman daily, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and its former leader and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used all possible means to muzzle the remaining free and independent media to prevent questions about corruption.

As for the imprisoned police officers, they were detained in two separate probes starting on July 22, 2014 on charges of spying and illegal wiretapping and were later arrested and imprisoned.

The operations against the police are widely believed to be an act of retribution by Erdoğan's administration for the corruption investigations in which the sons of now-former ministers and many government-affiliated figures were implicated.

‘Silivri Prison should be renamed Guantanamo'

Speaking to Today's Zaman on Monday, former İzmir Mayor Burhan Özfatura, commenting on the non-implementation of a high court's release order for Karaca and the 63 police officers, said Silivri Prison should be renamed Guantanamo.

“It is definitely not possible to talk about democracy and law in Turkey. The country has literally turned into a banana republic. I suggest that Silivri [prison] should be renamed Guantanamo,” said Özfatura.

He also commented on the decision of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) to remove the judges of 29th and 32th Courts of First Instance in İstanbul from their positions on Monday, saying that the decision was no surprise to him as the judiciary has been restructured according to the whims of the government.

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