New reform bid may lead to prison releases
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Justice Minister Ergin (L) shows some papers to PM Erdoğan during a session at Parliament. Ergin will introduce the fourth judicial package to Erdoğan.Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin is set to introduce the fourth judicial package to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan today amid rising expectations the package will pave the way for the release of hundreds of political detainees, thus softening the climate for progress in the ongoing peace process between the Turkish government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The package essentially aims to remedy structural problems within the Turkish judicial system related to rulings concerning human rights violations in Turkey at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Yet, the package is also at the center of a debate concerning the government’s peace process. Claims have been made that with this new package the government will secure the release of detainees in cases concerning the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the alleged urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in an effort to contribute to the positive atmosphere that emerged when it was publicized officials were holding talks with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. The talks aim to convince PKK militants to lay down their arms and withdraw from Turkish soil. The Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) deputy parliamentary group chair, İdris Baluken, affirmed there had been widespread public expectation that the fourth judicial package would lead to the release of detainees in the KCK case.
‘KCK suspects detained for expressing opinion’
“Detainees in the KCK case were all arrested because they expressed their opinions or attended a demonstration. There’s no charge of violence against them,” Baluken told the Hürriyet Daily News.
“If this package meets expectations, it will be perceived as a serious step toward peace and raise hopes among people for peace. But a possible contrary situation would be risky. If expectations are not met, it will cause a huge disappointment among people,” Baluken said.
The government has long delayed the release of the package. One reason may be opposition from hawkish circles who argue the release of KCK detainees would be a compromise given to the PKK.
Turkish media recently reported the release of KCK detainees would be secured with an amendment to Article 220 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Article 220 of the TCK suggests that those who commit crimes in favor of an organization, although not officially counted as members should be punished for being a member of the organization in addition to being punished for the crime committed.
The same article also says a person who consciously and willingly assists a terrorist organization, although not being within the hierarchal structure of the organization, should be punished like an organization member. Human Rights Association (İHD) Chairman Öztürk Türkdoğan, however, said that an amendment to Article 220 of the TCK will not be sufficient in securing the release of detainees in KCK cases.
Few suspects in KCK cases are detained as part of Article 220 of the TCK, Türkdoğan stressed. “Most of detainees in KCK cases are accused of being members of [armed] organizations as part of Article 314 of the TCK. Therefore, an amendment to Article 220 of the TCK will not be sufficient for their release,” Türkdoğan told the Daily News. Türkdoğan proposed an amendment to Article 100 of the Law on Criminal Procedure (CMK), which lays out reasons for arrest, in order to secure the release of KCK suspects.
He also criticized the government for not lending an ear to NGOs when drafting the fourth judicial package. “The fact they do not listen to the civil society is a deficit. We are the ones who better know the implementation process of the laws.”