April 28, 2015

Whole country turns into a prison

Orhan Kemal Cengiz

A huge discussion currently taking place in Turkey over law and procedure, after suspects were not released from prison in spite of a court order, may seem quite complex but it is not. I will explain.

The essence of the matter is simple: In Turkey prisons have turned into one-way institutions from which those targeted by the government cannot escape.

Hidayet Karaca, the CEO of the Samanyolu media group, and several police officers were ordered to be released from prison by a court of first instance in İstanbul on Friday night.They are still in prison, and two judges who paved the way for their release have been suspended by the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan targeted them verbally.

Was it surprising? Not at all. The essence of the matter is so simple, and if you have little patience, I can also try to explain the procedural aspects of this discussion. As you may know, after Erdoğan began his war against “parallel structures,” namely the Gülen movement, some special arrangements were introduced to the judicial system to allow him to wage this war on a legal level.

The offices of the so-called “penal judges of peace” were created and given specific tasks. A closed system was created. When you are sent by a prosecutor to be arrested, you appear before a penal judge of peace, and if you are arrested, your objection goes before another of these judges. In İstanbul there are 10 penal judges of peace. Unsurprisingly, all of them are quite close to the government. After the introduction of these judges, almost everyone brought before a judge for allegedly insulting Erdoğan has been arrested. Therefore, you can imagine how “impartial” and “independent” they are.

Karaca was arrested by of one of these judges. He and the police officers arrested with him objected to their detention so many times that this closed circle was completed. Each of these 10 judges rejected the appeals at least once. Karaca's lawyer made another application, which is allowed under our procedural law, but this too was rejected, causing even more suspicion that the judges are biased.

Since the objection targeted all ten judges who had rejected the appeals for release, the file went to a court of first instance. The 29th Court of First Instance accepted the appeal to overturn the ruling of the penal judges of peace, and referred the file to the İstanbul 32nd Court of First Instance, which decided to release the suspects.

However, the prosecutor refused to forward this decision to the relevant parties and none of the suspects were released. After this, one of the penal judges of peace said he had “annulled” the decision of the court of first instance, which is impossible in our legal system, as lower courts have no authority over upper courts.

Finally, as I said at the beginning, the judges who decided to release the suspects were suspended.

If you ask me, everything has been utterly wrong, from the introduction of the penal judges of peace to the arrest of Karaca. Karaca was arrested on charges based on some words uttered on a show screened on a TV channel in his media group. It was an illegal arrest under the standards of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

And now the “legal” system says it is impossible to release him.

The whole country has turned into a prison.

Published on Today's Zaman, 28 April 2015, Tuesday