Test for the ruling party to live up to its name
Istanbul’s 13th Specially Authorized Criminal Court passed down its verdict on the Ergenekon Case, in which 275 defendants stood trial, on Aug. 5, 2013. However, despite the more than six months passing, the court has not finalized the reasons for its decision. There is no precedent for a delay of this extent.
As a result, it has not been possible to begin the appeals process in the case. The objection petition to the Supreme Court of Appeals can only be written after the reasons for the decision are received and reviewed. After this, the high court will examine the file and make a decision.
If this tempo continues, the finalization of the Ergenekon case will be around the end of 2015 or probably sometime in 2016. In this case, there is no other option but for Ergenekon detainees in Silivri, near Istanbul, to remain patient.
The slowness of the court triggered an open criticism from Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ the other day; the minister defined the actions of the court as a clear “violation of rights.”
This delay alone is an outstanding example of how specially authorized courts (ÖYM) act so unconventionally. While the government is set to totally abolish the specially authorized courts in a justice package currently being debated in Parliament, this latest example confirms such a correct step has been taken.
The fact that a step has been taken in the correct direction should not stop us from seeing the major discrepancy in this bill. The government is abolishing these courts because of the problems they have created, but it is not taking any steps in terms of making up for the victimizations caused by them.
Also, the identification of a significant portion of these courts with the “Gülen Community” has caused a serious problem in confidence – in which the government has also joined in the latest phase – in the public about their impartiality and independence.
An important turning point in the history of these courts was when a specially authorized prosecutor attempted to arrest the undersecretary of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), Hakan Fidan, in February 2012, prompting the government to engage in some serious soul-searching. As a result, in July 2012, in the place of the ÖYMs, Anti-Terror Courts (TMM) were founded. It was anticipated that the ÖYMs would finish their cases without taking on any new ones.
This has led to a strange situation. The government saw the drawbacks of the ÖYMs and set up new ones instead of them. However, the same government, being aware of its drawbacks, left those people who were tried in these ÖYMs – be it in the Ergenekon, “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) or KCK cases – alone with the problematic judicial practices of these courts.
The problem here is the government has blatantly consented to the victimization of people under the wheels of a system it has recognized as unjust.
The stage we have reached after one-and-a-half years is that the criticisms raised in the summer of 2012 about the inappropriateness of this step have been acknowledged. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has decided after one-and-a-half years to eliminate the TMMs and the ÖYMs, not leaving behind any specially authorized court.
The closing of these courts on the grounds that they have not conducted a fair trial is at the same time bringing forth a conscientious obligation to the government – not just political and legal ones. If those people who have occupied the defendant seats were not tried justly and if there were serious violations of rights, then the government has to take those steps to eliminate this injustice and remedy the situation.
The government’s inertia in this field will result in nothing but further harm to the sense of justice in this country. There is, of course, also the test of living up to the name of the party, which consists of two concepts, one of which is justice.
Sedat Ergin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this abridged piece was published on Feb 13. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.