The son-in-law dilemma for Turkish justice

The son-in-law dilemma for Turkish justice

Amid the Qatar crisis which is straining the entire neighborhood, Turkish politics has become occupied with a son-in-law crisis where the courts are accused of positive discrimination in the case of the relatives of key political figures of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti).

The debate started when Ömer Faruk Kavurmacı, the son-in-law of Istanbul’s powerful mayor, Kadir Topbaş, was released on May 5. Kavurmacı was arrested following the July 15, 2016, coup attempt which has been blamed on U.S.-resident Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen. Kavurmacı was on the board of TUSKON, a Gülenist business organization which used to be favored by AK Parti governments but later became the target of accusations of funding the “terrorist network of Gülen.”

Kavurmacı’s release by an Istanbul court was based on a medical report that stated he was epileptic.
Opposition leaders, including Devlet Bahçeli of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), who offered strategic support to President Tayyip Erdoğan to usher in the executive presidential system in an April 16 referendum, criticized the release, claiming it had hurt the people’s feeling of justice.

Noting that there were hundreds in jail suffering worse health problems, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP) claimed the court had released Kavurmacı based on government instructions. 

The debate became further heated when Ekrem Yeter, the son-in-law of former Parliamentary Speaker and Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, was arrested but then released just three days later on June 8. Yeter was the chairman of the now-closed International Federation of Health (USAF), another organization accused of being a front for the Gülenist network. Yeter was arrested by the court after saying his “father-in-law said it would be useful for me to accept the position” when it was proposed to him, during a time when Arınç was in a more influential position then he is now.

Yeter said he had been working with Bank Asya, which used to be run by Gülen supporters, for the last 10 years and that he saw nothing wrong with that. And he has a point, since until the coup attempt, Bank Asya was a legal company favored by the government, even though there are now people who were put in jail for making donations for Africa during a past Eid al-Adha feast through the bank.

Yeter was reportedly released by the court because he has “a fixed address.”

As an Istanbul court was releasing Yeter for having a fixed address, Kadri Gürsel, a journalistic colleague, was defending himself in another court. Gürsel, the head of the Turkey branch of the International Press Institute (IPI) – which this journalist is also a member of –has been in jail for the last 225 days as of June 12 on charges of simultaneously being a member of two separate terrorist organizations that he has long criticized in his columns: the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the illegal network of Gülen, or the “Fethullahist Terror Organization - FETÖ” as the indictments call it.

Kadri was trying to explain to the judge that the 92 calls on his mobile phone by users of ByLock, an encrypted communication software messaging application used by members of the Gülen movemet, were not by him but them and that most of them remained unanswered. And, after all, he said he was a journalist and could talk to anyone.

However, the judge did not release Gürsel, who also has a fixed address and had a settled life in Istanbul until he was taken to prison together with other colleagues working for the center-left daily Cumhuriyet. Ahmet Şık, who spent two years in jail for writing a book exposing the illegal activities of Gülenists and is now inside again (164 days and counting) for helping Gülenists, also has a fixed address. Oğuz Güven, Murat Sabuncu, Murat Aksoy, Turhan Güney and 160 other colleagues who are now in jail all have their homes and fixed addresses like Ekrem Yeter.

For the sake of justice in Turkey, the justifications used for the release of the sons-in-law would be better applied to all in prison under similar conditions.