Opposition slams judicial reform bill

Opposition slams judicial reform bill

Hüseyin Hayatsever ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Opposition slams judicial reform bill

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin heads a meeting of Parliament’s Justice Commission. AA photo

The so-called “third judicial reform package,” which aims to speed up Turkey’s cumbersome judicial system, will not solve the problem of lengthy trials, but will instead severely curb the right to defense, opposition lawmakers argued yesterday at Parliament’s Justice Commission.

“Ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP] lawmakers argue that the primary objective of this package is to speed up the judiciary. However, their main objective is to paralyze the defense,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Ali Rıza Öztürk said during the debate.

Squabbles erupted after AKP members pushed an amendment through that would allow the judicial authorities to withhold the files of terror-related suspects from their lawyers for up to three months.

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said the provision would constitute an improvement since the restriction period is currently indefinite.

Another provision on the offense of “influencing fair trial” also infuriated the opposition. Under the draft, those who attempt to influence judicial authorities, legal experts and witnesses illegally would be sentenced to jail terms of between two and four years.

CHP lawmakers said the provision could be misused to block defense lawyers. “This is a threat against lawyers’ job. Any meeting that lawyers have with a witness or a legal expert could be considered an attempt to influence the trial. Lawyers will feel obliged to record all of their meetings,” the CHP’s Bülent Tezcan said.

In a rare development, a CHP proposal received support from AKP members and was also approved at the commission. Under the proposal, the period in which lawsuits could be brought over crimes committed via the press was reduced from six to four months after publication.

The commission meeting was still under way when the Hürriyet Daily News went to print yesterday.

Separately, CHP deputy Süheyl Batum charged that the AKP has embarked on a covert operation to “remove the rule of law” in comments on an AKP draft bill that would allow judges to announce verdicts in the absence of defense lawyers. The proposal is seen as a countermove against the lawyers in the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup case, who have blocked the proceedings by boycotting the hearings on the grounds that the defense’s rights are being systematically breached.