Justice is lost in Turkey as everybody seeks revenge

Justice is lost in Turkey as everybody seeks revenge

As of yesterday, more than 100 suspects, most of whom were former police officers in key positions, were in custody, as part of an investigation into the “parallel state” claims.

The biggest operation in the Republic’s history that targeted the members of the police force is quite similar to the coup plot probes, which were the first time scores of high-ranking officers in the Turkish military were targeted.

Just like the days of the coup plot investigations such as the Balyoz (Sledgehammer), Ergenekon, and Oda TV cases, the media and the people are mainly divided into two sides. While the pro-government circles and media say the suspects conspired to spy on citizens, state institutions and top officials, including the prime minister and the head of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT), members of the Fethullah Gülen movement and the pro-Gülen media argue that the suspects detained were targeted because of their roles in the graft probe launched on Dec. 17, 2013.

While the pro-government side portrays the suspects as a gang ready to do any legal or illegal thing to protect their interests, the pro-Gülen front hails them as heroes who dedicated their entire lives to fighting corruption and injustice.

The truth lies probably somewhere in between, just like it did during the coup plot investigations.

There most probably was a junta within the military planning to overthrow the government at that time, but the investigation came to the point where any individual critical of the government was considered a coup plotter. Journalists, writers and academics were arrested, the media almost immediately sentenced them and they were held in prison for months, in some cases years. Seven years after the launch of the first coup plot investigation, all suspects - including those whose sentences were approved by the Supreme Court of Appeals - are now free, awaiting retrial.

Those coup plot investigations, as well as the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) investigation that also raised concerns about a fair investigation and trial, were conducted by the very same people who are now in custody. Despite all of the criticism and outcry, the government and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stood by these police officials during those investigations. Erdoğan even proudly said that he himself was the “prosecutor of the Ergenekon case.” When the police confiscated journalist Ahmet Şık’s then-unpublished book, the “Imam’s Army,” which was about Gülenists in the police force, the prime minister compared the book to a "bomb" in order to depict how dangerous it could be.  

A split began in February 2012, when MİT chief Hakan Fidan was called to testify as a suspect in the KCK investigation. The Dec. 17, 2013 graft operation, which directly targeted four former ministers and Prime Minister Erdoğan and his family members indirectly, was the point where the two sides parted ways completely. After then, the government vengefully vowed to root out Gülenists from all state institutions, especially the police and the judiciary.

Now the suspects are facing the same treatment that they meted out when they had the power. Their houses were raided in the middle of the night, most at around 2 a.m. They were unnecessarily handcuffed and presented to the media. The pro-government media has already declared them criminals, even before they were detained. Just like the evidence used in the Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) cases when it first appeared in the media, stories on the “Gülenist group’s” wiretapping were the lead stories in the pro-government media for weeks. If you criticize the suspects’ conditions and voices concerns about fair trials, you are immediately labeled a Gülenist and an enemy of the government.

Amid this fight, the public has been losing its faith in the police and the judiciary. According to a survey made public in February, 35.3 percent of Turkish citizens trust the police, a drop from 52.7 in 2011. The number of citizens who trust the judiciary has fallen to 26.5 percent, from 38.8 in 2011. Only 24.2 percent of those surveyed now believe that the judiciary is impartial and independent.

The judiciary should neither be a tool of pressure on the society, nor a tool of revenge. We need justice for all, and we need it today.  

Meanwhile, 49 employees of the Turkish consulate in Mosul, including Consul General Öztürk Yılmaz and two babies, are now in their 43rd day as hostages (or "guests," if you want to believe the pro-government media stories) at the hands of a bunch of murderers, (or Muslim fighters who are dedicated to cleaning Iraq and Syria from infidels and Shiites), who call themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Ensuring their safe return home should surely come before any power struggle in the country.