A positive outcome of the match-fixing case
I should begin with a correction first. In an analysis made on Feb. 15 in this column, I wrote “unless a special measure was taken” the match-fixing case with 93 defendants would have taken many years to finalize. This prediction was based on a projection of the patterns prevailing in similar large-scale cases.
When the case was finalized within four and a half months, my evaluation proved false. We are faced with a national record with regards to the pace of the specially authorized courts in Turkey.
Daily Radikal announced the reasons for the speedy trial based on “information gathered from the panel of judges” in its headline last Sunday in a story by Fatih Yağmur. The court had acted fast with considerations of “preventing further damage to Turkish football caused by the court process and the talk of match fixing.”
On the other hand, it is a generally accepted assumption that in this extraordinary investigation, the defense stage was also finalized with somewhat extraordinary speed. As a matter of fact, lawyers of Fenerbahçe President Aziz Yıldırım are expressing strong objections that the trial was not conducted in a fair manner because of the speed factor.
However, despite all its potential defects, it has been observed that – if wished – justice can be expedited and an interesting precedent has been set in this aspect.
This precedent inevitably prompts this question: “To benefit from fast-track justice, is it a must that the defendants come from the sports world?”
A major leap in legal awareness
Let’s put the negative aspects to one side. As a matter of fact, there is one positive outcome of the match-fixing case: A large segment of society is generally indifferent to judicial processes and problems in this area; this case has acquainted them with the very basic concepts of law. The fact that the investigation has handled football, the common denominator of society, quite roughly has prompted everybody to ponder legal issues. The slightest details regarding procedural law has begun to enter the terminology of the man on the street.
In this aspect, the investigation has effected the creation of a major social awareness on the excessive and disproportionate practice that dominated the work of the specially authorized courts. It has strengthened the public control over these courts.
The role of the match-fixing case was indeed an undeniable factor in the law that amended the status of specially authorized courts last week in Parliament.
In short, the match-fixing case has created a leap in the legal awareness of Turkish society. If it weren’t for this case, would we have heard the concept of “presumption of innocence” this frequently?
As a matter of fact, the way the case ended should have also clarified to everyone how crucial this principle is and why every defendant should enjoy the protection of the presumption of innocence. Namely: When the verdict was announced the other day, 43 of the 93 defendants were acquitted.
It cannot be regarded as a success story from the view of the prosecutors conducting the investigation given that 46 percent of the defendants, in other words almost half of them, were found not guilty. Well, who will pay for the price of the ordeal these acquitted defendants had to go through for a year?
What did Fenerbahçe show us all?
Indeed, with this verdict, it is just one stage that has been left behind in the legal proceedings. The presumption of innocence is still valid for all defendants. The case will be taken to the Supreme Court of Appeals. The match-fixing case will be one of the first critical cases the Supreme Court of Appeals, with its new composition, will tackle. In the event of a decision to overturn the sentence, a retrial could come into play.
If the defendants who have been convicted see their sentences upheld in the appeals stage, they could still exercise their right to conduct an individual application. In this case, a very long process is in question, ranging from the Constitutional Court at first to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg as a last resort.
Finally, there has been a very valuable outcome to the match-fixing case. That outcome is the ability of the Fenerbahçe community to mobilize a magnificent spirit of solidarity and resistance under the leadership of Aziz Yıldırım. As a Beşiktaş fan, I salute with admiration and respect the stance and the resilience demonstrated there.
Sedat Ergin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on July 4. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.