Erdoğan signals revision of criminal code article empowering coup prosecutors

May 31, 2012, Thursday/ 02:29:00/ TODAYSZAMAN.COM

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has alluded to the a revision of a Turkish criminal code article that give special authority to courts and prosecutors investigating organized crime and coup plot suspects without elaborating on the type of amendment.

When a journalist referred to Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım's statement in which he said the prime minister's ordered changes to Article 250 of the Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK) might result in the release of nearly 800 suspects jailed in connection to several trials, Erdoğan replied, “Law is not a static process, but a lively one.”

Erdoğan added that in “this lively process” it is absolutely natural to hold consultations and make assessments with respect to new developments. He added that the issue not only pertains to Article 250 and that the Justice Ministry is working on four judicial packages, thought he did not elaborate.

The prime minister also said the government will step up efforts to rapidly complete the process, adding that the Justice Ministry has made serious progress on the issue and that “we will be able to see the text of their works” in the upcoming week.

Some of the most important cases currently being heard by special courts are the Sledgehammer trial and the Ergenekon trial, where suspects are accused of attempting to overthrow the government, in addition to a case against the KCK where suspects are accused of involvement in terrorism. These courts were established in 2004 to replace the State Security Court (DGM), which was abolished within the scope of the European Union accession process for not being fair enough.

An investigations, which has spanned the past several years, into shadowy incidents, unsolved murders, coups and coup plans in Turkey's recent history has shown how specially authorized courts established in line with Article 250 and 251 of the CMK have been instrumental in clearing major obstacles for Turkish democracy. Such courts have provided the country with its first chance to bring “untouchables” before the judiciary.

It was not clear from Erdoğan's remarks what amendments to Article 250 would entail and how it might affect specially authorized courts and prosecutors. Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin defended specialized courts in March of this year, but did not rule out a revision of the courts' authorities and procedures.

“Instead of objecting to specialized courts, I am of the opinion that it would be better to revise their procedures and authorities,” he said at a symposium in Ankara. Recalling that courts that match the definition in Article 250 of the CMK are classified as specialized courts, Ergin said there are many types of specialized courts, including family courts, labor

courts and intellectual property courts.

Since the adoption of Article 250 and 251 on June 1, 2005, Turkey has made significant progress in democracy as courts established under these articles have made it possible for prosecutors to investigate nine separate coup attempts and confront gangs and unsolved murders over the past seven years. In addition, thanks to the authority granted to prosecutors by these articles, some assassination and coup plans have been foiled.

Observers and lawyers worry about the abolishment of these courts, raising concerns that in such an event there will be no progress in ongoing judicial proceedings in which suspects are accused of having plotted to stage a coup or of involvement in terrorist activities, which in turn could hinder the country's democratization process and security.

Specially authorized courts and prosecutors do not hear or investigate ordinary cases. The special authority given by Article 250 and 251 to prosecutors allows them to investigate terrorist groups and crimes against the constitutional order. The article also vests civilian prosecutors with the power to investigate military personnel accused of crimes threatening national security, constitutional violations and attempts to topple the government in peacetime.

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