Thursday, July 02, 2009

Latest from Turkey

Today Ali Sirmen from the Cumhuriyet newspaper appeared on Ruşen Çakır's and Mirgün Cabas' Yazı İşleri on NTV. I don't like repeating myself or other people, but sometimes you have to keep making the same point. Here's a little backgrounder:

Last week, our parliament passed a law that transfers the authority to try military personnel from military courts to civil courts for crimes against state security, the government, judiciary and the constitutional order, as well as forming an armed organization. This applies to the soldiers, who are accused of being involved with the Ergenekon plot to overthrow the AKP government. In fact, the government appears to have deliberately targeted them with this new law. The most prominent one is colonel Dursun Çiçek, the alleged author of the strategy to "finish" reactionary Islam and the Fethullah Gülen brotherhood. He was arrested for his alleged involvement with Ergenekon a couple of days ago, only to be released by the same civil court yesterday.

The new law is an EU accession requirement, and an outsider would view it as a step towards a sounder democracy, making soldiers more accountable to civilians. This would be the case if our judiciary was truly independent. However, some of the prosecutors and judges (as well as the police) are ideologically motivated. One of the judges has withdrawn from the case due to what he called "institutional pressures." The suspects of the Ergenekon investigation have been under arrest for a long time without a trial. The indictments are so complex that even well meaning judges would take a very long time to untangle them. We may never find out the truth.

In this environment, it is not possible to be happy about a reform, knowing that the roots of the problem lay much deeper. The judiciary and security forces are used as weapons in this power struggle, leaving Turkish citizens with a deep suspicion about these institutions' willingness and ability to protect their rights and freedoms.

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