Let’s not forget justice
Turkey just had an exciting round of elections. Now the state is adopting itself to a new governance system. This adoption process is very important but we should never forget law and justice. It is even more important now to be more careful about justice and to end unlawful arrests. In fact, the precedents by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the Constitutional Court have already established that a number of the arrests violate rights, meaning that those arrested must be released. The economy is also facing serious challenges, which means that trust in justice must be restored. Implementing the rulings of the ECHR and Constitutional Court will likely help the economy too.
The case of jailed main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) deputy Enis Berberoglu, who was reelected to parliament on June 24, is still pending at court. He has not yet been convicted of any crime but has been in jail for over a year. The constitution stipulates that “a deputy who is alleged to have committed an offence before or after an election shall not be detained, interrogated, arrested or tried unless the General Assembly decides otherwise.” Berberoğlu must therefore be released from prison and he must be able to take oath in parliament. If his immunity is lifted then his trial can continue. Lawmakers’ immunity was lifted for one time only with a provisional article added to the constitution following the 1960 military coup. Professor Mustafa Şentop from the Justice and Development Party (AKP), who is the chairman of parliament’s constitutional commission, has said “lawmakers would enjoy immunity provided that they are reelected.” Berberoğlu has indeed been reelected and he is entitled to have immunity. Keeping him in prison is against the constitution. Law experts within the AKP must share their views with the public now.
Journalists Nazlı Ilıcak, Ahmet Turan Alkan, Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Ali Bulaç, Mümtazer Türköne, Şahin Alpay, and Mustafa Ünal were also all arrested in the wake of the heinous July 2016 coup attempt.
Widespread arrests at such extraordinary times may be understood, but as investigations moved forward and no evidence was found against them they should have been released. They appealed to the Constitutional Court, and over a year after their appeal the Court ruled that there were no evidence that justified the arrests of Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan, ruling that their rights had been violated.
That ruling was announced on Jan. 11, 2018.
In a state of law, the constitution is binding for everyone, right? Unfortunately, the lower courts ignored the top court’s ruling and ruled to keep them in prison.
After Alpay and Altan appealed once again, the Constitutional Court ruled again that their rights had been violated and Alpay was released on March 18, 2018. On March 23, the ECHR also ruled that their arrests violated human rights. But the local court did not comply with the ECHR’s ruling. Mehmet Altan was only released on June 27 after the court of appeals ruled that he must be released. This happened exactly one year and nine months after the two first appealed to the Constitutional Court. The ruling party, which had said in its election manifesto that the state of emergency would remain in place, now says it will end the state of emergency. Indeed, it certainly must lift the state of emergency; the judiciary should not live in the mood of emergency rule any longer.