Turkish government mulls changes to ‘special courts’

Turkish government mulls changes to ‘special courts’

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish government mulls changes to ‘special courts’

A group of lawyers protest the special-authority courts in front of the Silivri Prison. The special-authority courts have long been under fire for their actions. DHA photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has signaled that the government is considering amendments to the status of the much-criticized special-authority courts, a move that carries the risk of an in-house rift within his Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“The Justice Ministry is working on a fourth package [of judicial reforms],” Erdoğan said late on May 30, signaling that the package would include changes to Article 250 of the Code of Criminal Procedures, which regulates the status of the special-authority courts.

“This is not only related to Article 250. I think that the work will be finished next week and [the draft] will be submitted to Parliament,” Erdoğan said.

The special-authority courts have long been under fire over controversial practices that have come under the spotlight, especially in the handling of the high-profile investigations of the Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup plots.

Some AKP members joined the critics when special-authority prosecutors summoned National Intelligence Organization (MİT) head Hakan Fidan and other MİT officials for questioning in February, as part of the sprawling investigation into the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the alleged urban network of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In response, the AKP rushed a bill through Parliament that provided a judicial shield for the MİT members.

Some AKP officials had even floated the idea of reshaping the structure of the special-authority courts, and Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin had suggested amendments that would bar the courts from investigating senior officials, including military officers, without the prime minister’s permission. These suggestions, however, drew stern objections from some AKP lawmakers on the grounds that curbing the powers of special-authority prosecutors would undermine the Ergenekon and Balyoz probes.