From execution without trial, to punishment without trial

From execution without trial, to punishment without trial

Kaşif Kozinoğlu was a former ranking origin foreign operations official of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT). When he got arrested 8 months ago Kozinoğlu was the MIT station chief in Afghanistan also covering radical Islamist activities in Turkic parts of Central Asia.

He was arrested due to suspicions that he had passed classified personal information on leading members (including Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan) of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) to internet journal ODA TV, with alleged links to an alleged organization ‘Ergenekon’ accused by the prosecutors to conspire to overthrow the government.

If he did not die of an hearth attack in Silivri prison near Istanbul on November 12, he was to appear in court on November 22, for the first time since his arrest.

The Justice Ministry had to make a statement yesterday explaining that his hearth attack came after a heavy work out, referring to his cell mates. The statement was also telling that the prison physicians did not find any bruise or broken bones in his body in the first examination before the autopsy; that part of the statement was like an indirect answer to some speculations on the web in reference to the past records of this military origin intelligence officer, but the actuality here is the over extended detention periods in the Turkish system.

Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek said yesterday that detentions are not aimed to turn into punishment. Turkish President Abdullah Gül and the head of the Constitutional Court Haşim Kılıç underlined the same point before.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) went further and claimed last week that Erdoğan government is turning prisons into a ‘concentration camp for his opponents’. That was in front of the Silivri prison right after visiting two of CHP’s parliamentary-elect there; surgeon Professor Mehmet Haberal and journalist Mustafa Balbay, who are tried in the Ergenekon case.

It’s not only Ergenekon detainees who are complaining because of being inside for nearly three years without a ruling. Hundresds of army and navy officers, including generals and admirals are in the same position for around a year within the ‘Balyoz’, or Sledgehammer case and more that two thousand inside for more than two years in relation with the outlawed Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) case.

Oomen Ruıjten, the Turkey reporter of the European Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee told CNN-Turk after carrying out high level meetings in Ankara last week that, she criticized parties showing people under accusation as parliamentary candidates just to save them from prison, but she could not accept arrests for 3 years without a ruling at all.

Long arrest period have four main drawbacks regarding the Turkish justice system: 1- It casts doubts on the fairness of the eventual rulings; 2- It means huge losses of basic right for those to be found innocent at the end of the trials; 3- Thus big complaint files to be taken to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which will end up with huge compensations for Turkşsh government; and 4- It creates a perception, maybe an illusion that all people tried are totally innocent, because all accusations are fictitious, thus trials are political.

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, who is under political pressure to change the law articles permitting long arrests withou court ruling in organizing a conference on November 15, that is tomorrow in Ankara to compare the rulings of the ECHR and those of Turkish courts.

It is important for the government to update the justice system in order to deliver better justice to its citizens and get rid of increasing criticism, including that of related with media freedom as well.

Turkey had left behind the nightmare of physical torture and executions without trial of 80s and 90s. Now Turkey has to leave behind the punishment without trial debate for good