These cases should be finalized ‘in moderation’
TARHAN ERDEMJustice Minister Sadulah Ergin was the guest this week on the TV show “Eğrisi Doğrusu,” conducted by journalists and columnists Taha Akyol and Sedat Ergin. It was highly beneficial to listen to two veteran journalists. The question on the expanding of the Feb. 28 investigation and the response to the question were thought-provoking.
The question was how far politically targeted investigations should go and expand. The justice minister answered the question quite ambitiously and at the same time ambiguously. Daily Hürriyet carried the short answer Sedat Ergin gave for Ergenekon and similar cases as its headline May 6: They have to be done in moderation. Let me first try to summarize Sadulah Ergin’s reply: The extent of investigations, which should not be emotional but in line with the criteria stated in our laws, are determined by our prosecutors. The justice minister should not attempt to state, “It should cover this; it should not cover that.”
When we say “the recent investigations,” we are talking about the investigations and cases opened against those who had attempted to weaken the ruling party and its authorities and to cause them to lose their posts through illegal means and methods. We have had in our democracy many such cases named after the leader of the movement, its date or name of the report: Among them are Dokuz Subay (nine officers), Talat Aydemir and 9 Mart (March 9).
There are two important aspects in the investigation of these topics: One of them is that the case has been opened to set an example after some time passes after the actual incident; the other one is where the number of defendants is too many. These two features create a public impression that justice is not served in these cases. Those who share this opinion at the beginning look as if they are the minority in the population but as the legal process drags on, belief in justice decreases.
In any case, cases similar to the recent investigations are very difficult to keep away from government intervention. Recent surveys show that about half of the public believes that the government guides these recent cases.
No doubt the government is influential in the opening of the recent cases, in stimulating justice in certain fields and in setting the environment. However, the recent investigations and cases have been opened and are being conducted in a more-than-ever independent justice system.
Within judicial independence, there cannot be any interference in the opening and conducting of cases regardless of time and number of defendants and when the verdict should be made.
In the recent investigations, at the beginning, incidents that happened five years ago were taken into consideration, then 15 and 30 years ago. Right now, more than 100 people are arrested; there are more than 400 defendants. Those who are responsible and those who obeyed orders under “absolute obedience” have been equated.
In short, with this structure and number of defendants, it is very difficult to finalize these cases.
I am aware of the fact that there are many people who think differently, who argue that even coalition partners from the 1980s, those who decided on Feb. 28 should also be brought to the court. Also, there are many who argue that these cases should be expanded as much as they can be so that nobody would ever attempt to stage a coup from now on.
The rebellion of those who had been subject to inhuman tortures after each coup is highly justified; we can only respect their protest. However, unfortunately, this population will continue to live on.
Sedat Ergin is right in saying that the justice minister cannot and should not “determine” the extent of the cases. However, it is the political power’s duty that legal rules of finalizing the cases at reasonable periods, deadlines of opening investigations and the conditions of defendants in taking part in the act are determined and legislated.
Justice is not able to see who is put on its sensitive scale with its blindfolded eyes. It is legislation that determines the working system and technique of the scale, the rules on who will be put on the scale. It is not intervention in justice; the government and the legislature should restrict and determine certain rules on how retroactive certain crimes written in laws should be and the conditions of opening cases.
In the special conditions of today, legislating the exceptions of the general situation and special conditions is not interfering with justice; it is a political preference.
Tarhan Erdem is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece appeared on May 7. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.
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