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June 28, 2012, Thursday

Do it, but listen first

It is said that there will be a surprising development in Parliament tomorrow and there will be an amendment regarding specially authorized courts -- which deal with crimes against the constitutional order, organized crime, terror and drug trafficking -- in the third judicial reform package.

The other day, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan presided over a three-and-a-half-hour-long meeting on this issue. This is a weird situation which makes one ask “What is happening?” The government had clearly said that there will be nothing about specially authorized courts in the third and fourth judicial reform packages. We have not forgotten the statements of government officials Bülent Arınç and Hüseyin Çelik to this effect.

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) could certainly make an amendment about the courts in Parliament by looking at some of the courts' shortcomings, flaws and wrong practices. The government could even address the injustices caused by articles of an anti-terrorism law on the definition of membership in terror organizations. The amendments that will ensure judicial unity are more important and urgent than others.

What we would like to highlight now is something different. The circles who want Turkey to transform from a military tutelage regime into a democracy have some just concerns. We are talking about a part of the public who voted for the election of the president by a popular vote, who said yes to democratization and expansion of freedoms by 58 percent in a referendum on Sept. 12, 2010. These people have some concerns today; concerns that will shake them, disappoint them and give moral superiority to supporters of the Ergenekon gang and prompt them to think arrogantly and say, “We still have the power.”

Just consider the atmosphere in the country when there are mass releases of suspects in ongoing trials into Ergenekon, Sledgehammer and anti-government propaganda websites. Just let me state that I don't mean to say that the jailed suspects of these trials should stay in prison for years. I even support curtailment of detention periods with a speedy legal amendment. It neither complies with conscience nor justice for those who are not convicted of a crime to stay in prison longer that they would stay when they are convicted. But this should be done without watering down the various coup cases, spying cases and blackmail cases. There are concerns that ongoing trial processes will be damaged with an amendment to the specially authorized courts and it will be a kiss of life for the pro-junta group in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) ahead of the upcoming Supreme Military Council (YAŞ).

It is uncertain if specially authorized courts will be abolished or if there will be some changes to their authorities. Our only consolation is what journalist Ali Bayramoğlu, who acts like the spokesperson of the circles who want this amendment very much, wrote yesterday. Bayramoğlu said: “Let's note this for those who are eager about the issue. Claims suggesting that the fight against Ergenekon and gangs will be weakened and we will return to square one in ongoing cases are mistaken. An amendment about specially authorized courts will not affect ongoing trials and these trials will not drop due to such an amendment. There will no releases.” Bayramoğlu must know something to speak so confidently. We hope this to be the case.

There should not be courts that remind us of the former State Security Courts or Independence Courts -- tribunals that prosecuted thousands of people on charges of treason in the early years of the Turkish Republic or defiant judges and prosecutors who overstepped their authorities and made shows of power. Yet, there are special courts in Western countries as well. This is the first time in Turkey that coup trials are held. The state is, for the first time, asking for an accounting from illegal structures within the state. Nobody can belittle the contribution of the specially authorized courts to this effect and to Turkey's democratization. If Erdoğan thinks these courts have begun to be disturbing today, the solution should be sought in the principle of the individuality of the crime. In addition, when the structure of the specially authorized courts is changed, this should not turn into an elimination of some judicial members who perform their profession perfectly. The judiciary members should not be discouraged or made to feel alone.

If the AK Party's stance which encourages confrontation with coups and gangs, hitherto appreciated, is damaged, it will not only be the government who will lose but also the entire country. The joy of the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) over the prospect of the abolishment of the specially authorized courts confuses minds.

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