May 5, 2015

‘Parallel’ paranoia has begun compromising legal system

The ‘parallel’ label the government came up with to undermine opponents in the aftermath of the December 17th corruption probe has begun compromising judicial legitimacy, with suspects being tried for anything from narcotics to burglary reporting their judges as ‘parallel’ to the authorities.

Suspected criminals have begun abusing the Turkish government’s frequent use of the ‘parallel structure’ as some sort of boogeyman responsible for everything bad in Turkey, with some suspects even reporting the judges and prosecutors who are trying them to the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) as being agents of the ‘parallel structure.’

The term ‘parallel structure’ was coined by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then the prime minister, and his associates in the wake of the Dec. 17-25 corruption probes implicating the highest levels of government. Used in reference to the Gülen movement (Hizmet movement) inspired by Turkish-Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, Ankara accuses the ‘parallel structure’ of being a shadowy covert organization that has infiltrated the state apparatus and is intent on toppling the administration. The label is frequently used by the government in an attempt undermine and intimidate opponents by overriding the rule of law.

The HSYK has over 18,000 official complaints filed against Turkey’s roughly 13,000 judges and prosecutors. Of these complaints, about 8,000 are comprised of anonymous claimants and don’t bear any signatures, and most come from suspects of serious crimes like narcotics, mugging or burglary.

Nowadays the parallel label is being leveled against the authorities by suspects caught in the criminal act. Tayfun D, a prison runaway with a 15 year sentence, was caught with a fake National Intelligence Agency (MİT) ID and even offered to ‘reveal’ the “armed wing of the parallel structure” if he was let go.

In another case in the northwestern province of Sakarya where 34 people including 2 police officers are being tried for sexual assault against a 14-year-old girl, one of the suspected police officers claimed during his testimony that he didn't know the age of the victim and that it was all a conspiracy against him by the ‘parallel structure.’

Similarly suspects on trial over cases involving outlawed armed groups such as the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party–Front (DHKP-C) and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) are also filing similar claims, saying the judges who sentenced them were working for the ‘parallel structure’ and that if the verdicts against them were overturned they’d become informants against the structure.

In an interview with Turkish daily Zaman, former Diyarbakır Police Chief Recep Güven discussed the purges and reorganizations of Turkish law enforcement and how parallel paranoia had begun affecting the police as well.

“260,000 officers have been reassigned, 1,776 police chiefs have been forced into retirement,” he noted, “Nothing like this has been seen since the department was first established in 1845. They’re now going to organized crime rings and instructing them to report on officers so that they [the government] can indict them.”

Published on BGNNews, 05 May 2015, Tuesday