Government signals reform as top general’s arrest stirs anger
ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Deputy PM Beşir Atalay says the Justice Ministry is already working on a series of amendments to shorten the judicial process. AA photoThe Turkish government signaled the criteria for pre-trial detention could be tightened as the arrest of former Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ on terror charges unleashed a wave of criticism of the government and raised fresh questions over the judiciary’s credibility.
Referring to mounting complaints over protracted pretrial detentions, Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay said the Justice Ministry was already working on a series of amendments aimed at shortening the prosecution process.
“Justice delayed is justice denied. But instead of limiting detention periods, [amendments] aimed at speeding up the judicial process and a review of the arrest criteria could be considered,” Atalay said on the private CNN Türk channel.
Atalay declined to comment on the charges brought against Başbuğ and said they expected “the justice system to function fairly and proceed speedily.”
Başbuğ, he said, was “undoubtedly a valuable colleague” who had been appointed as chief of General Staff by the Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Atalay dismissed the prospect of any negative impact on relations between military and government. “Turkey is going through a profound normalization. Our perceptions have changed. If a mistake is made, the people will see this,” he said.
President Abdullah Gül commented on the situation. “Everybody is equal before the law, and the process should be followed calmly.” Gül said no one should be declared guilty without conviction.
[HH] Opposition bashes government
Pointing an accusatory finger at the government, main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu described Başbuğ’s arrest as “a massacre of justice” and suggested the retired commander was put behind bars in order to divert attention from the botched air raid at the Iraqi border in which 35 civilians perished.
Başbuğ’s arrest showed “the special-authority courts do not dispense justice but only approve decisions made by the political authorities,” the head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) said.
The special-authority courts, which handle terror-related crimes, “are used by the government as a stick. Moreover, there is a constitutional provision that chiefs of General Staff, even if retired, are tried at the Supreme Council. Even this is being breached. We have here a massacre of justice,” he said.
In equally harsh accusations directed toward the government, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli warned the massive judicial onslaught against the military had reached a point of jeopardizing Turkey’s security.
Başbuğ’s arrest “has become one of the most significant problems Turkey has faced. The coup investigations have gotten out of control. They have become a shady process with no indication as to when they will end and to whom they will extend,” Bahçeli said in a written statement.
“Presenting the Turkish Armed Forces as the base of terrorist organizations will only lead to crisis and chaos. It must be analyzed how the Turkish Armed Forces can protect our security and unity, while being subjected to such accusations,” he said.
AKP Deputy Chairman Hüseyin Tanrıverdi dismissed the criticism, arguing Başbuğ’s arrest was an indication of Turkey’s democratic progress. “The judiciary is doing its duties. Turkey is democratizing. In democracies, everybody is equal and no one can interfere with the judiciary,” he said in the western town of Kula.
The AKP’s Burhan Kuzu, a constitutional law professor, played down suggestions Başbuğ should be tried at the Supreme Council, arguing Başbuğ’s alleged offenses were not related to his duties as chief of General Staff for which the top court has jurisdiction.