Court arrests two judges who sought release of Erdoğan’s foes

Court arrests two judges who sought release of Erdoğan’s foes

Court arrests two judges who sought release of Erdoğan’s foes

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An Istanbul court has arrested two judges who ordered the release of 76 suspects charged with alleged links to the “parallel state” of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Metin Özçelik, former judge of the Istanbul 29nd Penal Court of First Instance, was arrested on April 30 with an order of the Bakirkoy 2nd High Criminal Court. An arrest warrant was also issued later for his colleague Mustafa Başer who came to the Bakırköy courthouse to surrender on May 1.

The judges over the weekend issued an order to release the 75 former police officers and the head of the Samanyolu TV station Hidayet Karaca from police custody. All are accused of being members of a pro-Gülen “parallel state” aimed at overthrowing the government and President Recep Tayip Erdoğan, as well as being members of an “armed terrorist organization.”

Their ruling had been blocked by a higher court and the judges themselves were then suspended by Turkey’s Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) on the grounds of “damaging the reputation and influence of the judiciary.”

The 76 suspects were never released and remain in detention. They were all initially detained in a series of raids that started in 2014 against supporters of Gülen in the Turkish bureaucracy. 

The ongoing “parallel state” case was launched on Dec. 14, 2014, against senior media figures and police officers in 13 provinces across Turkey for allegedly being affiliated with what the government describes as a “parallel state.” Gülen leads a broad movement known as “Hizmet” (Service), believed to be supported by millions of Turks and which brings together interests ranging from finance to schools to media. President
Erdoğan’s rift with his ally-turned-nemesis Gülen dramatically turned into a war after the corruption investigations that rocked the government in December 2013.

After the May 1 arrests of the two judges, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz said it was possible for one judge to rule for the arrest of another judge. “Everybody should respect the judiciary. The nation should be able to trust the work of the judicial mechanisms. We have trust in them,” Yılmaz told reporters.

The rulings of judges might differ, but anyone who thinks his rights have been violated can apply to the Constitutional Court, he added.

Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu said “everybody should be aware of their mistake.” 

“Anybody who acts wrongly will pay for it. Anyone who does right will be rewarded by the nation,” Müezzinoğlu said.

The president of the court of cassation, İsmail Rüştü Cirit, also defended the arrests of judges, saying they had “acted unlawfully.”

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Bülent Tezcan said judges cannot be on trial for their rulings. Even if they have made mistakes in rulings this should be corrected through mechanisms within the law, Tezcan said in a written statement on May 1.

The judiciary should be isolated from the influence of politics for Turkey’s “normalization,” he said, adding that the government was bringing about controversial new court cases “similar to the Ergenekon and Balyoz [coup plot cases].”