The princes are above the law

The princes are above the law

The other day, a controversial inquiry commission in the Turkish Parliament made a very controversial decision: Four ex-ministers of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, who had been accused of massive corruption, should not face trial at the Supreme Court, the commission said. However, this was not a unanimous decision. Out of 14 members of the commission, five voted for sending the ex-ministers to trial, nine opposed. And, as you can guess, all of these nine members were from the AKP.

In other words, the ruling party saved its members from facing trial in a case that has shaken the nation throughout the past year. On a deeper level, the ruling party has shown us that the rulers in this country, as usual, are above the law.

How we came here is a complicated story. In a shorter version of events, everything began in December 2013, when two subsequent “corruption investigations” targeted four ministers (who soon had to resign) and other key figures in the ruling party. One of the suspects was the very son of President Tayyip Erdoğan.

In return, the government condemned these investigations as a “coup attempt,” and turned the whole legal system upside-down to block the “coup.” It is no wonder that when the parliamentary commission’s decision came out on Jan. 5, saving the ministers from trial at the highest court, government supporters cheered, saying “the coup” had been averted.

In my view, the term “coup” is absurd here, for what we are facing is a corruption investigation, which happens in all democracies. However, again in my view, it is also true that the investigation had political motives. There are also many signs to believe it was planned and driven by the members of the Gülen movement in the judiciary and the police — or the so-called “parallel state.”

In others words, there was really something conspiratorial about the investigation. (This was proven further when dozens of the wiretapped phone conservations that seemed to prove the corruption were systematically leaked to the Internet.) But that conspiratorial aspect should not have blinded us to the evidence in the front our eyes — such as the millions of dollars in cash found in some of the suspects’ homes.

Yet, neither the government, nor its supporters had any interest in such nuances. That is why, since December 2013, they have been obsessing about “the coup” and nothing else. They even took this narrative to cosmic levels, imaging the CIA, “Zionists” and all of the usual suspects of the Islamist narrative to be behind “the coup.”

When there is so much conspiracy out there to get you, what do you do? You flex your muscles. You also justify things that normally could not be justified. That is precisely what the AKP (and Erdoğan) have been doing over the past year, by gradually curbing the independence of the judiciary and saying there is a cabal in the judiciary that is conspiring against the government.

What is difficult here is that this cabal (the “parallel state”) is not totally imaginary — as pointed out not only by government propagandists, but also more neutral observes. There is also no doubt that it should be exposed, disestablished and brought to justice.

However, we also cannot tolerate the ruling party escaping from justice. But unfortunately, that is where we are heading. On the horizon is a future in which the government will first make the judiciary “trustable” before the judiciary can ask any questions. The judiciary will become “trustable” only when it is firmly in line with the executive. In other words, the rule of law will be replaced by the law of the ruler.