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December 12, 2012, Wednesday

Controversial ombudsman

The heated debates have not ceased since Mehmet Nihat Ömeroğlu, a retired member of the Supreme Court of Appeals, was elected as Turkey’s first chief ombudsman by Parliament late last month.

 Ömeroğlu was one of the judges at the 9th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals who approved of a local court’s ruling against Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was killed in 2007, over charges of “insulting Turkishness” according to Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). The perpetrator of the attack said he was disturbed by Dink “insulting Turkishness.”

Sabah’s Nazlı Ilıcak thinks Ömeroğlu is unfairly accused of the Supreme Court of Appeals decision as he was only one of 18 judges and had a fairly small contribution to the decision. Moreover, it was typical for courts to convict someone over Article 301 and Dink was no exception. What’s more, Ilıcak says she has doubts about the sincerity of the reactions against Ömeroğlu. When Hasan Gerçeker, who headed the 9th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals at the time, was elected as the Supreme Court of Appeals head later on, there were no reactions against that decision, she notes. However, despite all this, the fact remains that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) should have sought a larger consensus among opposition parties during the election of the country’s first ombudsman. Also, it is worrying that the other candidates apart from Ömeroğlu were also close to the AK Party. Among the candidates, Mehmet Elkatmış was one of the founding members of the AK Party, while Serpil Çakın was one of the members of the Central Executive Board (MYK) of the AK Party’s women’s branches. All these suggest that we would end up electing an “Akbudsman” either way.

Hasan Cemal from Milliyet says the public’s conscience was disturbed by the new ombudsman. He says if Ömeroğlu had just said that the ruling on Dink was a decision which he regretted the most and if he had just calmed people down, everything would be easier. Instead, he chose to make unhelpful comments on the issue, saying he was not aware that it was Dink who was convicted over Article 301, resulting in even more questions and not easing any worries, Cemal says.

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