Euro court finds Turkey guilty in retired commander’s case
REUTERS PhotoThe European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found Turkey guilty in the case of retired commander Levent Bektaş, who complained he had failed to obtain notice of the public prosecutor’s opinion during his criminal proceedings.
Retired commander and businessman Bektaş was arrested in Istanbul on April 22, 2009, as part of an operation into the Ergenekon coup plot case. As he remained in custody with charges of “engaging in activities seeking the overthrow of the government by force and violence,” he applied many times to the Istanbul Assize Court for his release.
The Assize Court followed the opinion of the public prosecutor’s office, which had not notified Bektaş or his representative, and dismissed the applications for release.
On Jan. 27, 2014, the Assize Court ordered his release, though the case is still pending before the Assize Court. Relying in particular on the right to obtain a prompt decision by a court on the lawfulness of detention, Bektaş complained there had been no effective remedy by which to seek release, in particular because of the inability to obtain a notice of the public prosecutor’s opinion.
The court held the finding of a violation constituted sufficient just satisfaction for any non-pecuniary damage suffered by the applicant.
In a separate case, the court fined Turkey 12,000 euros in the case of Mehmet Hatip Dicle and Selim Sadak, whose candidacies to the legislative elections of 2007 were rejected following their criminal conviction.
Both Dicle and Sadak, MPs in the Turkish parliament and members of the Democracy Party (DEP), were sentenced in a final judgment by the Constitutional Court in 1995 to 15 years’ imprisonment for membership in an illegal organization. The ECHR found violations of a right to a fair trial and the failure to inform the applicants in a timely manner of the reclassification of the charges against them. Dicle and Sadak had their trial reopened. On March 9, 2007, the Assize Court upheld the applicants’ convictions, but reduced their prison sentence to seven years and six months. The Court of Cassation upheld that decision.
Dicle and Sadak wished to stand as independent candidates in the legislative election on July 22, 2007.
The Supreme Election Board (YSK) refused their candidacies on the grounds their criminal convictions precluded their eligibility, even though the proceedings had been re-opened and were still pending before the Assize Court at the time of the election, said the court in its ruling.
The court ruled the principle of the presumption of innocence had been disregarded, particularly in the judgment of the Assize Court. It also ruled their right to stand for election as independent candidates was also prevented, which is a violation of the right to free elections.