The German daily Die Welt published a story on March 8 suggesting that “Turkey could release imprisoned journalists in exchange for visa-free travel to the EU.”
What about the ability of the “independent judiciary” to rule on arrest and release decisions?
Can some states of law order arrests and releases as and when political developments require?
How would those who accept such a situation “for the sake of national interest” feel if the same thing happened to them?
As you may remember, Deniz Yücel, a Die Welt correspondent, was arrested on Feb. 27, 2017 and accused of being a “German spy” and “cooperating with terrorist organizations.”
This arrest has been one of the reasons for tensions between Germany and Turkey.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım went to Berlin to improve bilateral relations, and said he was “hopeful that there would be a positive development regarding Deniz Yücel’s case” during his meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel on Feb. 14, 2018.
And the next day, the indictment of Deniz Yücel was ready, and he was released from prison.
Moreover, the authorities did not impose any ban on him leaving the country or any other type of judicial control.
Deniz Yücel travelled to Germany on Feb. 16 on a private plane arranged three days prior to his release, as if some already knew he would be released.
In the Büyükada case, in which human rights activists were detained in July 2017 as they attended a workshop on Büyükada, an island off Istanbul, eight were released. The four Turkish citizens involved have been banned from leaving the country.
Telling the world
The Constitutional Court has cited “a lack of evidence and violation of rights” concerning arrested journalists Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay. They are still in prison.
When the Constitutional Court makes such a ruling, it is very common for the courts to rule for release, which is also required by the law, as we have seen in the cases of former Turkish Chief of General Staff İlker Başbuğ and CHP deputy Mustafa Balbay.
However, this time the ruling party thought “the Constitutional Court went beyond its jurisdiction.” The courts then ruled for the continuation of their arrest on the grounds that “the Constitutional Court went beyond its jurisdiction.”
Moreover, these journalists were sentenced to a lifetime in jail despite the Constitutional Court’s ruling.
How can we tell the world this was an independent decision when we have such a situation?
How can we explain the “strange” situations through universal principles of the rule of law?
I am personally against religious preachers such as Nureddin Yıldız, who publicly make controversial remarks. But he is not “inciting hatred among the public,” according to the Turkish Penal Code. Even if he was, why are these people subjected to an investigation by the juridical power only after the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, namely the executive power, spoke about them and not before that?
‘No political hostages in Turkey’
Meanwhile, journalists Murat Sabuncu and Ahmet Şık were also released in the Cumhuriyet case.
Considering the chief judge’s remarks that “captains are last to leave the ship,” we assume that the Cumhuriyet’s chairman, Akın Atalay, will also be released soon.
Their arrest was a mistake.
An important summit on EU-Turkey relations has been scheduled for March 26 in Varna, Bulgaria. Of course, their release is not directly related to the summit, but I think it will have a positive impact.
Unfortunately, such arrests provide an image of political arrests. That may be why Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek has said “there are no political hostages in Turkey” when he was in the United States in October 2017.
Of course, there are not. However, certain acts raise doubts over the judicial independence in this country.
There is no point in merely constantly repeating that the judiciary in Turkey is independent. There are universal principles that ensure judiciary independence, and it is necessary to accept and implement them at the institutional level.