The Fidan case shows AKP’s insincerity
The fact that a prosecutor attempted to question the head of the country’s intelligence service (MİT) on the grounds that he aided the PKK is odd, of course. The ongoing struggle between the various political and ideological factions in the country has turned into what Newsweek’s Owen Mathews refers to in his latest piece on Turkey as “a civil war fought not with guns but with arrest warrants.”
It seems that as long as the judiciary served the interests of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the legal aberrations in the “Ergenekon” or “Sledgehammer” cases were of no concern to the government. But when the judiciary, through what is claimed are anti-government nationalist elements embedded in it, “stung” the AKP by trying to question its spy chief Hakan Fidan, the picture changed radically.
Overnight the judiciary became the AKP’s enemy. The claim was that the prosecutor who tried to question Fidan, and who has in the meantime been removed from that case, was actually aiming for Prime Minister Erdoğan, given that Fidan acted on Erdoğan’s instructions when holding secret talks with the PKK.
“The appointed are trying to undermine the elected. We will not allow this,” was the AKP’s clarion call in response to the prosecutor’s attempt against Fidan and other high level MİT officials. Prime Minister Erdoğan repeated this line also on Sunday in a televised address to party youth.
By doing this he also indicated his belief that “appointed elements” were trying to undermine him since he is the “elected” one in this equation and not Fidan. The “appointed” he was referring to, on the other hand, was the prosecutor who tried to question Fidan. But were Erdoğan and the AKP upholding democracy in saying this or merely looking after their political interests? The evidence suggests it was the latter.
Scurrying to alter the situation, the government hastily prepared an amendment to the relevant legislation in order to save Fidan and passed it at breakneck speed in Parliament last week with the votes of its own deputies. President Gül, who is himself from the AKP, for his part felt no need to have the change reviewed for its legality and endorsed it immediately.
Senior officials acting on the prime minister’s instructions can only be prosecuted now if the government permits it. Understandably, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is saying now that the AKP has in effect given itself “a license to kill without fear of prosecution.”
What should be noted here, however, is something else. When criticized over restrictions on press freedom or the fact that many journalists are in prison for merely doing their job, for example, the standard AKP retort has been “don’t interfere with the independent judiciary.” Neither has the government made the slightest effort to correct the legal aberrations surrounding cases like Ergenekon or Sledgehammer, in order to raise the quality of these trials to European standards.
And yet when the same judiciary acted in a way that disturbed it, the AKP jumped to action and showed its determination to correct what it considers to be a politically motivated legal anomaly. This does not point to a government that is bent on pushing for more democracy but to a government that is only determined to act for its own interests.
Put another way, the AKP, despite claiming to bring “advanced democracy” to this country, has done little yet to correct the legal aberrations that have put Turkey at the bottom rung in terms of rights and freedoms. And yet through the Fidan case it has shown that it has the means and the determination to do this if it wanted to. There is a large dose of political insincerity here.