April 27, 2015

Speaking of ’parallel structures’...

Cafer Solgun

The İstanbul Public Prosecutor's Office has not complied with a court ruling to release Samanyolu Broadcasting General Manager Hidayet Karaca and 63 members of the police force. So yes, now this has happened. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) has once more reminded us that when it comes to the notions of law and justice, it is willing to see vital principles destroyed in the name of protecting its own interests. This, as it carries on with the witch-hunt that consumes it.

Lawyers defend. Prosecutors make allegations and demands. Judges render decisions. This is how the judicial mechanism works in Turkey.

If justice is to be served, it is critical that the court system be independent. The courts must remain independent in the face of various powerful elements in the system, perhaps most importantly, the political leadership. The law is vital in order for the judicial, executive and legislative powers of the government to be able to do their jobs; all of these powers are equally bound and beholden to the law.

Not surprisingly, those made most uncomfortable by the concept of the independence of the judiciary are the powerful who have committed crimes. Which is why they work so hard to put the justice system under pressure and fill its chambers with their own supporters. All this is done to prevent the courts from rendering decisions that might harm their own interests. But the real result is, in doing this they are actually committing a greater crime than the crimes they had already committed.

At the same time, no truly democratic administration would ever attempt any of this. It wouldn't feel the need. Such a government is aware that everyone needs justice and the law; such a government strives to see that awareness of just how vital these factors are is kept alive in society.

When in a society justice becomes a plaything in the hands of the powerful -- and when the courts don't operate in line with the letter of the law, but rather according to the interests of those in power -- the most basic elements of what compose a society are damaged.

All of which is why, no matter what a person's title is, no matter their office, if such a person is faced with an allegation of a crime, they must be tried in a court of law. When necessary, the accused resigns from their position and goes to court for either acquittal or conviction. We see so many examples of how this system works in democratic countries. When it comes to committing crimes, no one has “privilege.” Everyone is equal before the law. The court does not take into consideration the political, economic or social status of the people who appear before it. Instead, it renders its decisions after examining evidence and listening to the defense or prosecutorial arguments delivered.

So what happens when some see themselves as “privileged” and not beholden to the laws or trials that others face if they commit a crime. What happens when such people undermine the entire justice system or try to take over the courts? We see the answer to this question reflected in everything that has happened in Turkey over the past two years.

And so it is that we see the prosecutors blocking the court decision to have Hidayet Karaca and the imprisoned police officers freed. But the truth is, a prosecutor does not even possess such authority. The court's decision can only be challenged in a higher court. So what this situation really reminds of us is that nothing can be called “impossible” in our country anymore, especially when one is talking about things the ruling AKP wants to see or doesn't want to see happen.

We all know that right now in Turkey, the justice system is under pressure from the political leadership and that it cannot do its job objectively and independently. The moment the courts render a decision deemed unsuitable by the political administration, intervention is quick to follow; either this, or the decision is simply ignored.

I believe that all the rhetoric we hear about the “parallel structure” and “coup attempts” is the most accurate reflection of our reality these days, though in mirror image.

The reality is that the AKP has slaughtered legal and judicial norms in Turkey, becoming, on its own, a “parallel power.” Normalization will be possible only if we are able to transcend this oligarchic structure, so set on protecting its own interests at any price.

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