Reform package paves way to relieve judiciary’s burden

Reform package paves way to relieve judiciary’s burden

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Reform package paves way to relieve judiciary’s burden

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin is seen while addressing deputies during the session to pass new judicial package. The package includes major reforms to speed up judicial system. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

The third judicial reform package, which passed through Parliament’s General Assembly yesterday, includes major reforms to speed up Turkey’s cumbersome judicial system. However, as in the current legislation, judicial discretion will apparently play a key role for making such an improvement real.

Turkey’s long-debated lengthy pre-trial detention periods are expected to be relieved thanks to the amendment drastically extending the scope of judicial control measures. Judges will be able to implement judicial control without a maximum limit - which was previously only applicable for those facing charges punishable with up to three years in jail - instead of using detention.

Some commentators have said the package presents hope for Turkey’s eight jailed lawmakers, because judicial control could be an option potentially leading to their release.

The package has also introduced strict rules for arrest orders. Judges will be required to provide concrete justification for arrest orders, according to the bill.

Those found guilty of aiding and abetting terror organizations will be given penalties according to the nature of the aid given. In addition, jail terms for those found guilty of “assisting terrorist organizations” have been reduced.

Also, a regulation suggesting that those who take part in terrorist-supporting protests should be punished like an organization member will become more flexible and penalties will be abated.

The reform package also aims at widening media freedoms. All probes into offences committed via the media that are punishable with jail terms of up to five years will be suspended as soon as the bill enters into force. If the same offense is not re-committed within three years, the cases would be scrapped for good.

The package aims to relieve the courts of the huge burden related to relatively minor crimes such as driving offenses, check fraud and clandestine electricity use. Such breaches will be penalized with fines and the courts are expected to be relieved of about two million cases, according to information given by the Justice Ministry.

Motion secured Kurdish lawmaker’s seat
Relatedly, a regulation to suspend all prison sentences with jail terms of up to three years was also included into the reform package with a motion submitted by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers. This amendment will remove independent jailed lawmaker Kemal Aktaş’s risk of losing his deputyship, after he was sentenced to two years for “disseminating terrorist propaganda.”

Aktaş, elected while in prison from the list of a bloc backed by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), risked his parliamentary seat after the Supreme Court of Appeals approved his conviction, because jail sentences in excess of one year make one ineligible to hold a deputyship. Aktaş would have lost his seat if the ruling had been read out in Parliament’s General Assembly, and Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek was looking for a formula to prevent a possible crisis.

Opposition lawmakers submitted motions to secure the release of jailed lawmakers during debates late Sunday, however these motions were rejected by AKP lawmakers.