Justice Minister Ergin backs bill to bypass defense lawyers

Justice Minister Ergin backs bill to bypass defense lawyers

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Justice Minister Ergin backs bill to bypass defense lawyers

Justice Minister Ergin says a draft bill that will allow courts to announce verdicts in the absence of defense lawyers is needed ‘to prevent deliberate moves to protract trials.’ AA photo

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin yesterday threw his weight behind a controversial draft bill that would allow courts to announce verdicts in the absence of defense lawyers, arguing that the arrangement aims to prevent the abuse of legal rights.

“This draft aims to prevent deliberate moves to protract trials,” Ergin said during a debate at Parliament’s Justice Commission. His remarks were a veiled reference to the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup case, in which defense lawyers are blocking proceedings by boycotting hearings on the grounds that their rights are being systematically breached.

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The draft was submitted to Parliament last week by two lawmakers from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). A similar provision to bypass defense lawyers had been removed earlier from the so-called “third judicial reform package” which the Justice Commission is currently debating.

The package aims to speed up Turkey’s cumbersome judicial system, alleviate the problem of lengthy pre-trial detentions and expand free speech.

“This move flouts the will of the commission. The AKP does not aim to speed up the judicial system. They are using [the reform package] as a cover-up for eradicating fair trials and the right to defense,” Ali İhsan Köktürk of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said.

In another contentious point, the new AKP draft says judicial control measures – envisaged as an alternative to pre-trial detention – could be applied to those who face charges punishable with up to five years in jail, flouting another agreement at the commission to lift all limits on the applicability of judicial control measures.

The controversy left even an AKP member perplexed.

“I also wonder why the new bill was drafted,” Hasan Tüfekçi, a lawmaker of the ruling party said, adding that he was not familiar with the proposal.

Celal Ülgen, a high-profile defense lawyer for several Sledgehammer suspects, attended the commission meeting yesterday and followed the debate.

Minister, BDP trade barbs

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News

A proposed meeting between the justice minister and a Peace and Development Party (BDP) delegation has sparked a fresh rift between the two as the latter announced the purpose of the meeting was to discuss convicted terrorist Abdullah Öcalan’s prison conditions.

The BDP released a written notification yesterday informing the media about a scheduled meeting between a party delegation led by deputy parliamentary group leader Pervin Buldan and Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin scheduled for today. It said the meeting was aimed at seeking permission to visit Öcalan, the convicted head of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in İmralı “in the shortest possible time.” The BDP said it would also request permission for a team of doctors to see Öcalan, who has been barred from seeing visitors for 10 months.

However, minutes after the BDP’s announcement, Ergin issued a statement criticizing the BDP for announcing a meeting which had not yet been set. The minister also slammed the BDP for not informing him on the subject. “Announcing the content of the meeting to the public does not suit political ethics and courtesy,” the statement said.