Turkish government once loved the specially authorized courts

Turkish government once loved the specially authorized courts

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has increased its efforts to get rid of a problem it created: Specially authorized courts and prosecutors.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said yesterday the specially authorized courts, once the frontiers of the government’s fight against “coup plots and military tutelage” would be abolished before Parliament goes into recess for the March 30 local elections.

“We are taking a historic step that we should have taken earlier,” Bozdağ told reporters when announcing there will be one type of criminal courts when the law is approved.

The government’s move comes amid a heated debate over the specially authorized courts’ rulings, especially in the coup plot cases. A recent expert report in the “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) coup plot case indicates the hard disk that contained the basic evidence documents against the suspects was tampered with. In the wake of a graft and corruption probe that targeted Cabinet members, businessmen winning state tenders and even Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son, the government believes the specially authorized courts and prosecutors are the “judicial leg of an illegal organization within the state.”

The “illegal organization” here, as some ruling party officials openly say, is the Fethullah Gülen Movement. The government, without going into the details of the accusations in the graft probe, considers the move as an “attempt to sabotage the national will,” and seems to be determined to abolish specially authorized courts, which it sees as the source of the attempt.

However, the government and the ruling party had no problem with these courts, which were established in 2004 by the AKP to replace the State Security Courts (DGM) and deal with organized crime and terror investigations, until recently. The specially authorized courts, and prosecutors, were praised by the ruling party as pioneers in the fight against coup plotters. Prime Minister Erdoğan even went the distance to name himself as “the prosecutor in the name of the nation” in the Ergenekon coup plot case.

The majority of the Turkish people were hopeful when the coup plot probes started in 2007 that Turkey could finally settle the scores with its “deep state,” gangs within the state that are believed to be behind hundreds of unsolved murders. But the probe quickly turned into a hunt for the opposition to the AKP, and unfortunately, that did not disturb the ruling party.

When journalists Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener were detained as part of the Oda TV case, the pro-government media rushed to portray them as “terrorists.” Police raided Şener’s Şık’s home, the workplace of Şık’s colleagues, searching for the draft of an unpublished book. As a first in Turkey, Şık’s book ‘Imam’s Army,’ which was on the Gülen supporters within the police, was banned before it was published. Şık and Şener spent more than a year under arrest on charges of terrorism.

Although Şık and Şener are very popular among the ruling party supporters nowadays for their research on the Gülen Movement, they were not so at the time. Speaking at a meeting in Strasbourg on April 13, 2011, Prime Minister Erdoğan compared Şık’s book to a bomb. “It is a crime to use a bomb, but it is also a crime to use materials from which a bomb is made. If informed that all materials needed to construct a bomb have been placed in a certain location, wouldn’t the security forces collect these materials?” Erdoğan, who was not yet the target of the “illegal organization within the state,” said.

Not only journalists and soldiers, but many other opposition figures such as students, Kurdish politicians, socialists, unionists etc. have been victims of the specially authorized courts. Thousands of them are still in prison, five elected lawmakers of Parliament spent half of their terms in jail. Retired and active-duty soldier suspects in the coup plot cases have been crying since the first day that they were being accused based on fake evidence.

The government and the AKP, who were mostly deaf to the outcry caused by the specially authorized courts, are now upset and seeking a quick solution since the gun in the courts’ and the prosecutors’ hands is pointed at them. But it is not easy to forget the joy they had when the same gun was shot at the government’s critics.