Terrorism abusing freedom: Top judge

Terrorism abusing freedom: Top judge

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Terrorism abusing freedom: Top judge

AA photo

Terror activities constitute the main hurdle to a solution to the problem of freedom of expression, Turkey’s chief judge has said. However, he also urged the government to keep pursuing its anti-terror fight within the boundaries of the rule of law. 

“The methods of terrorists abusing freedoms and rights make solving problems, particularly on freedom of expression, more difficult,” Ali Alkan, head of the Supreme Court of Appeals said at a ceremony to mark the start of the judicial year. “Terrorist activities and methods of expression should be distinguished. Encouraging violence, racist calls and hate speeches should not be allowed, but those who represent the state power should not tolerate these [calls] either,” he said. 

President Abdullah Gül, who recently recovered from illness, did not participate in the ceremony, but Chief of General Staff Necdet Özel appeared for the first time at such a ceremony.

Alkan’s words came at a moment when the entire country is discussing ways to eliminate the growing terror problem and how politics will deal with it. A recent photographed encounter between Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) lawmakers and outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants provoked enormous controversy. 

“We are witnessing that terror is being used as a political tool, although it requires national and international cooperation given its cross-border nature,” Alkan said. However, he also advised the government to pursue the struggle within the rule of law. 

Alkan slams politicians, media

Recalling that the judiciary had always been subject to criticism from various circles, including politicians and the media, Alkan said they were trying to learn from these criticisms, but that they should never turn into insults. 

“The judiciary is not a field in which one should develop a populist political rhetoric,” he stated. Underlining that there were continuous and baseless political reactions against ongoing legal cases that misinformed public opinion, Alkan suggested that these moves directly tarnished trust in the state and the judiciary.

In the eyes of Alkan, the media’s coverage on such cases was no different. He claimed that media reports could influence the course of cases, clearly referring to the ongoing Ergenekon and Balyoz cases in which hundreds of prominent academics, journalists, and retired and on-duty military personnel have been prosecuted on charges of trying to topple the government. 

“Sometimes the media issues convictions, putting itself in the place of the judiciary without considering the principle of the presumption of innocence. The media should report legal cases in an impartial and correct way on. It should also avoid reporting in a way to mislead the public opinion and refrain from extrajudicial execution,” Alkan said. 

Attaching great importance to the ongoing parliamentary efforts to renew the constitution, Alkan expressed his expectation from the new charter. “The new constitution [should] aim to preserve the rule of law, [should] be committed to democratic values, and [should] be based on social reconciliation,” he said. 

He underlined that the new constitution should also secure the principle of the division of powers, but also refrain from weakening the unity of the state. “The state must prioritize the rule of law and its main duty must be to protect human honor,” Alkan said. 

Meanwhile President Gül, who did not attend to the ceremony, released a written statement. 
In the statement he stated that an independent and neutral judiciary was the main principle of the state of law. 

“Justice is one of the most important values of state and social life. And the virtue of law appears only if justice is done. Justice taking place without delay also strengthens confidence in the state,” the President said, without directly referring to the Ergenekon and Balyoz trials.