Finding the balance between freedoms and fighting terrorism

Finding the balance between freedoms and fighting terrorism

The murder of Istanbul criminal prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz in a raid on his office in the Istanbul Courthouse by two militants of the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) on March 31 triggered waves of trauma at a time when Turkey is heading for critical parliamentary elections on June 7.

President Tayyip Erdoğan denounced the attack as a “trap” for Turkey as Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu slammed the opposition for not displaying the necessary “spirit of unity” with the government at such a dire time.

(The attackers by the way had crime records involved with the DHKP-C, and one of them had two brothers, one of whom was the subject of a red Interpol bulletin because of involvement in an attack against the U.S. Embassy in Ankara in 2013 and the other in prison in Greece.)

The opposition parties, which actually condemned the attack themselves, question the way that the terrorist attack took place during which the two militants were also killed: How were the militants able to get into the – supposedly – high-security building with pistol(s), as well as the flags and placards of their organization, to reach the prosecutor’s office on the sixth floor? Was that related to a security breach related with a massive power outage at that hour of the day? Did the government do everything right to save the life of the prosecutor? How could Erdoğan say that the police operation was successful when it resulted in the death of Kiraz?

The government, on the other hand, focused on the justification for tighter security measures in order to maintain public order to avoid “possible provocative actions before the elections,” as PM Davutoğlu said after the operation is over.

The government’s conclusion out of this terrorist act was that the controversial Domestic Security Law recently approved in the Parliament with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) votes was justified.

Davutoğlu said on April 1, right after the funeral of the prosecutor in Istanbul, that “from now, no one will be able to take the streets without permission.” (By the way there is still no public autopsy report about Kiraz, if there was one, raising question marks whether there was some police shots involved as well as the militants. He had three bullet wounds in the head and two in the abdomen, according to the police.)

The reader could ask about the relation between a terrorist act in a building under high security and stricter measures on rallies, especially in times of an election. According to Davutoğlu, there is a relation, because in some rallies bad people cover their faces with clothes to avoid security inspection just like the terrorist pointing a pistol at the forehead of the prosecutor did with his DHKP-C flag.

Davutoğlu also said it was he who ordered the security forces to stop reporters from covering the prosecutor’s funeral because some of their newspapers printed close-up pictures of the prosecutor under threat. He might have a point there, but that should not be a pretext to restrict the press.

A great majority of Turkish people acknowledge the need to fight terrorism. But there should be a balance found between maintaining basic freedoms like freedom of peaceful association and the freedom of press and fighting terrorism.