Immunity vs. impunity

Immunity vs. impunity

The attendance of Western diplomats at the Can Dündar-Erdem Gül hearing on March 25 apparently raised so many eyebrows that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan even complained about them during his visit to the war academy, where he was addressing officers. But then again, this may be another game he is playing. 

Foreign diplomats have always been a source of criticism in this country. If you had dared to watch one of the talk shows on the night of March 28, you would probably have heard the entire history of devilish plots Western diplomats planned during the last years of the Ottoman Empire. Not only Justice and Development Party (Ak Party) politicians, but also academics believe this. Oddly enough, it is absolutely unfair to believe all the judges and prosecutors in Turkish courts would be pressured by the presence of consuls. This is not a Roman court after all.

So why does the president take it so personally? If the presence of diplomats means something, then he should also look at the solidarity march on Istiklal Avenue last week. All of the diplomats that came to the court were also present, arm in arm, to show solidarity with Turkey after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attack on March 19.

Most Western diplomats expressed deep resentment when the judicial council filed a lawsuit for the Ak Party to be shut down. The U.S. State Department even openly criticized the move. Diplomats were also present in the 1990s when Kurdish parties were being shut down one after another. 

CNN Türk advisor and veteran diplomat Yalım Eralp told me that diplomats were also able to visit some of the political inmates during troubled times. “Five U.S. representatives visited Leyla Zana when she was imprisoned,” said Eralp. “A Swiss diplomat also visited scholar İsmail Beşikci in jail. This is an absolutely normal and even routine procedure for diplomats covering a country.”

Immunity is one thing, impunity is another. Erdoğan unfortunately assumes that diplomatic immunity would give Dündar and Gül a cover they are not entitled to have. One of the reasons there is so much interest in this case is the fact that the related story is strictly a news story. It is not gossip, it is not an editorial. It is a news story about a court case and its well documented facts.

Sadly, the media which positions itself close to the presidential palace or AK Party circles is missing the point.

Not everything and everyone is trying to topple this government. There is no “higher-mind” or “grand conspiracy to stop Turkey from its shining path.” It is our duty to inform and challenge the establishment to do better. It is our taxes and the rules that we obey which give us the legitimacy to question. 

It is not surprising for many to see Reza Zarrab, the Iranian-Turkish businessman, captured and imprisoned in the U.S. But it was fascinating to see the reaction last week when Preet Bharara filed the case, as he not only became a Twitter phenomenon, but also a hero who reminded us that justice can and will be served. 

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”