Turkey’s judicial chaos provides expected results

Turkey’s judicial chaos provides expected results

Greece’s refusal to extradite Turkish soldiers accused of being involved in the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt has angered Ankara, which is now pouring scorn on Athens. A sounding out of retired Turkish ambassadors shows, however, that the reason for this refusal lies more in Ankara than Athens.

Greece is a country Turkish diplomats instinctively distrust and maintain a guard against. The same applies the other way around too of course. Despite this, circumstances have forced the two neighbors to try and get along better. 

Retired Turkish diplomats believe Greece has no interest in causing a crisis with Turkey at such a delicate time, but can’t send the soldiers back because of legal uncertainties in Turkey, which has a president who also supports the death penalty, let alone arbitrary incarcerations.

Ankara should understand this because it refused to extradite Iraqi vice president Tariq al-Hashimi to Iraq to stand trial for setting up anti-Shiite death squads. Although Ankara’s sympathies rested clearly with al-Hashimi, it nevertheless used the argument that he would not receive a fair trial back home if he was sent back.

Greece is bound by EU law, which applies to all members of the EU. The German press is reporting that up to 40 Turkish soldiers are seeking asylum in Germany, on the grounds that they will not get a fair trial in Turkey, where they could also be mistreated.

Human rights groups, Western governments, and international organizations that Turkey is a member of, such as the Council of Europe, have all expressed concerns about what they say looks more like a purge of opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, than an attempt to weed out the supporters of the coup attempt.

Looking at the picture that Turkey is projecting to the world today, it is very likely that the U.S. will also refuse to extradite Fethullah Gülen, the self-exiled Islamic preacher who Ankara accuses of masterminding the failed coup attempt.

The Turkish government, in other words, wants it all its way, but is not likely to get it. The only response it has is full-frontal attacks, embellished with hackneyed accusations about anti-Turkish conspiracies. This may keep Erdogan’s support base happy, but means little in real terms.

An incident during Erdoğan’s recent visit to Tanzania also highlights what Ankara is faced with. Sevil Erkuş reported for Hürriyet Daily News last week that a group of Turks were refused entry into Tanzania for security reasons on the day of Erdoğan’s visit to Dar es Salaam. 

This reportedly had angered Erdoğan, who instructed Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu to look into the matter so that it is not repeated in the future. 

There appears to be only one reason why Tanzania would do this, and it has more to do with Turkey than Tanzania. 

Given the tens of thousands currently in prison in Turkey for allegedly being supporters of the coup attempt, and the international campaign Erdoğan has been spearheading against Gülen’s activities around the world - especially through his network of schools - Tanzanian officials obviously did not want any security risks during Erdoğan’s visit.

Tanzania cannot know if the persons being admitted - those in this case were reportedly members of the Islamic aid organization IHH – are “good Turks” or “bad Turks” who have ill intentions against Erdoğan. Its only choice appears, therefore, to have been to prevent Turks from entering during Erdoğan’s visit.

Another example involves Turkey’s new candidate for the European Court of Human Rights, where the term of its present judge will end soon. The government wants to send a judge who is friendly to Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The court however is reportedly not ready to accommodate this, and wants an independent judge. This is not today’s problem, but it is a crisis we could face later this year.
As the independence of the Turkish judiciary gets increasingly compromised, it is more than likely that Ankara will face more of such situations, which are ultimately of its own making.