May 3, 2015

Detention of judges, end of rule of law

Günal Kurşun

Last week, the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) removed two judges from office based on two decisions they had given. One of them was arrested early on Friday, following his recent ruling for the release of journalist Hidayet Karaca and 63 police officers who have been under arrest for four-and-a-half months, while another judge who contributed to the release order was also put under arrest.

If this had happened in an African dictatorship, or in Iraq or Syria, I could again criticize it, but since those countries are not democratic and make no claim to be, I could understand. But these happened in Turkey, a 92-year-old republic and a candidate country to join the European Union. Every day we see further interventions into the judiciary, which makes us think that we've hit the bottom, but the next day something worse happens. It seems there is no limit. Our fallen judicial system is totally bound to one political party and the politburo is deciding what can and will happen judicially. This is something out of juristocracy; it means we are living under an oligarchy and a dictatorship.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is continuing to press charges against individuals on allegations that they've insulted him. Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York-based worldwide human rights organization, issued a press release last Thursday calling on Erdoğan to end prosecutions based on insulting the president.

The HRW press release cites six more instances. These include Uğur Kılıç, a lawyer who was detained and arrested after he was interviewed by HSYK to become a judge, before being released a few days after; a 16-year-old student and his 17-year-old friend who were detained in Konya because they allegedly spoke of the president as “the chief of corruption, bribery and theft…” in a political meeting; Onur Kılıç, a political activist who is alleged by the police to have shouted the slogan “Thief, murderer” about Erdoğan; Kadir Yavaş (22) and Şafak Kurt (24), two university students from Edirne and Akhisar, respectively, who are alleged to have insulted Erdoğan; Feyzi İşbaşaran, a previous member of Parliament from Erdoğan's former Justice and Development Party (AK Party), who sent tweets about the president after he had clashed with him over his Kurdish policy; and İlker Bulundu, a 40-year-old craftsman from Silifke, who criticized Erdoğan on social media. HRW is clearly seeing what is happening in Turkey, thus they are calling on Turkey to stop these prosecutions.

The whole country has become a prison due to the so-called liberal policy of the president. Don't drink alcohol, don't draw caricatures, don't shout political slogans against a specific political leader, don't criticize the government and don't act as an impartial and independent judge. I do not understand the support of liberal leaders for Erdoğan. Is this a real liberalism? Can a person who calls himself liberal support these policies wholeheartedly? What is the real meaning of detaining two judges because of their decisions? Do we only have a rule of law when we write it in the Constitution but never feel beholden to it? Have we reached bottom, or will we see things getting worse in the coming days?

Chinese philosopher Confucius said: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Maybe it's true that the darkest moment really does come just before the dawn.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 03 May 2015, Sunday