Turkish Parliament abolishes special courts

Turkish Parliament abolishes special courts

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish Parliament abolishes special courts

Parliament adopts a reform abolishing the special courts. But it transfers some of their authority to the Criminal Courts. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Parliament has adopted a reform abolishing the specially authorized courts but transferring some of their authority to the Courts for Serious Crimes, tasked with prosecuting terrorism-related crimes, while assuring that the ongoing controversial Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) cases will not be affected.
The motion that paved the way for the transfer of authority specifies which courts will be able try to terrorism-related crimes. This is specified in a clause added to Article 74 of the Anti-Terrorism Law, Hürriyet Daily News has learned.

Via this additional clause, terrorism crimes will be tried with the expertise of the Courts for Serious Crimes. In cities other than designated metropolitan areas, regional courts will continue to try similar cases. Meanwhile, the crimes that will be tried by the Courts for Serious Crimes will be redefined.

The specially authorized courts have long been under fire for controversial practices, especially their handling of the high-profile investigations into the Ergenekon and “Balyoz” coup plots. A call from prosecutors with special authority for National Intelligence Organization (MİT) head Hakan Fidan to testify about secret talks with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in February became a breaking point for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on the issue. 

Eventually, the prime minister’s authorization was sought before launching an investigation in Fidan’s case. Similar authorization will be sought in such high-profile cases, especially for MİT members and members of the military. The motion brings in “authorization requirement,” for “public officers who are assigned by the prime minister.”

Yet, such authorization will not be valid in crimes related to terrorism and narcotics. In cases related to terrorism and narcotics, prosecutors will be able to call suspects to testify without having any authorization from governmental or bureaucratic bodies.

The clauses in articles 250, 251 and 252 of the Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK), which give special authority to judges and prosecutors when they are investigating “organized crime,” are being abolished. Thus, the concept of the “the specially authorized courts” is also being removed from the law.

The motion, meanwhile, includes the new concept of the “freedom judge.” These “freedom judges” will be assigned to make decisions regarding the investigation process, for example issuing search warrants for suspects. In the past, the investigation process was handled by the same judge who would later try the suspects in court. 

Some AKP lawmakers have expressed their concerns over a possible gap of judicial authority in the coup cases and have received assurances from both Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ and Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, who said: “There will be no arrangement which may lead to even a single release.”
“Current cases will not be negatively affected; they will be handled according to new procedures and clauses,” Bozdağ told reporters on Saturday, when asked about the possible implications of the motion for the ongoing trials in the specially authorized courts, such as the Ergenekon and Balyoz coup probes and the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) case. “We are taking a step which will strengthen the defense,” Bozdağ said.