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June 22, 2011, Wednesday

What happened in the Hatip Dicle case?

Turkey is an interesting country, perhaps because of the gaps in the system. People tend to use these gaps for the benefit of their own political camps. The best example of this problem is the Hatip Dicle issue.

Mr. Dicle is a well known Kurdish politician who was elected in 1992, but he was imprisoned by a political court decision in 1994 because of his alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). After serving 10 years in prison Mr. Dicle ran in the latest parliamentary elections. With the documents submitted to the Supreme Election Board (YSK) his nomination was approved and on June 12, 2010 Mr. Dicle was once again elected to Parliament. However, the same YSK that approved his nomination yesterday decided that Mr. Dicle could not be a member of Parliament because of his approved conviction.

This decision took everyone by surprise because it is odd to think of someone who is a nominee being elected by the people but blocked by a YSK decision. When I looked into the decision, I found an interesting “coincidence.” The YSK's decision refers to the decision of the Supreme Court, yet no one knows what happened in the Supreme Court. Let me explain what actually happened.

First, the Supreme Court approved the lower court's decision on Mr. Dicle on March 22, 2011, well before the election period. With this decision Mr. Dicle's nomination was made illegal. Yet, the court bureaucracy delayed notifying Mr. Dicle so he was not aware of the fact that he had been convicted and could not run for Parliament.

The last day for the nomination of deputy candidates was April 11. The Supreme Court's decision was released on April 14, a few days after Mr. Dicle applied to be nominated for the next election. His lawyers appealed the decision on April 15 and expected the normal procedure, in which it takes at least two months to finalize the appeal.

When Mr. Dicle and his lawyers were waiting for a decision regarding their appeal, the YSK finalized its decision and approved Mr. Dicle's nomination on April 29. Unlike a usual court case, the Supreme Court accelerated the procedure and finalized Mr. Dicle's appeal on May 11, 2011, one month before the election. Mr. Dicle's lawyers were notified on June 6, so they knew about the court decision that would deeply affect their client's nomination. They kept this decision secret until the YSK decided to veto Mr. Dicle's becoming a deputy.

There are at least two bizarre points in this case. First, what motivates the Supreme Court to speed up the appeal process to block Mr. Dicle's path to becoming a parliamentarian? Given the fact that the Supreme Court is one of the leading institutions for the state to maintain, the status quo supporters on the street think that there is yet another trap that the Supreme Court set before Mr. Dicle. Second Mr. Dicle and his lawyers were well aware of the fact that he could not be nominated in this election and they took their chances anyway, which is OK by me; however, by hiding critical information from his constituencies and public, they helped intensify the tension.

Overall, the political crisis that came from a court case once again indicated that the structure of our system is shaky at times. There are blurry areas that are open to misuse by politically motivated judges and Mr. Dicle's case is just one example of that.

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