Government plans to make a revision to an article giving special authority to courts and prosecutors to investigate organized crime and coup plots have caused public outrage since it might lead to the release of hundreds of gang members and terror suspects. The plans are believed to include the abolishing of special courts or divesting special prosecutors of their powers, which, most columnists argue, will reverse the democratic progress made thus far.
Zaman’s Mustafa Ünal terms the plans of change for special courts a “great risk for the [Justice and Development Party] AK Party.” He explains that the main driving force of the AK Party’s power, which first started with 35 percent of the vote in an election and increased to 50 percent, is its strong and determined stance against tutelage. This position by AK Party leader and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s is the main characteristic that makes him different from previous prime ministers. That’s why the AK Party’s plan regarding special courts will be like shooting itself in the foot.
The Third Judicial Reform Package has been carefully examined and discussed by the parliamentary Justice Commission and sub-commissions since January. The ruling party and opposition parties have all discussed it and reached an agreement. This is the way a law is supposed to be prepared in a democratic system, Hürriyet’s Taha Akyol says. And yet, he finds the discussions over the planned amendment regarding specially authorized courts insufficient and prepared in a rush. Everything is done in such a hurry that the deputy prime ministers have given different and contradictory statements on the issue. As for the content of the amendment, Akyol says that these courts have had many shortcomings and that there are many examples of how these courts have used their authority disproportionably and immoderately. The Hürriyet columnist gives some examples of this: The concept of an “organization” is too vague, which has caused some groups that are not organizations to be defined as such. Another problem is excessive detentions, Akyol says. The jailing of former Higher Education Board (YÖK) President Kemal Gürüz, who was on vacation when his detention warrant was issued and who went to the courthouse as soon as he returned, is not right, the columnist argues. An individual who has proved that he was not going to run should not be jailed pending trial. He does not have access to the YÖK archive, so there is no chance that he will destroy evidence, either. Akyol, finally, suggests that the Third Judicial Reform Package that is expected to be passed by Parliament on Saturday will make some improvements to the cases seen by specially authorized courts. These special courts should certainly remain; yet the rest of the problems with these courts should be taken care of at once, he suggests.
Bugün’s Adem Yavuz Arslan says the fact that only a few people in Parliament have definite knowledge about the government’s plans regarding special courts is proof of how poor the process of preparation for the amendment has been. Moreover, contrary to the plans to restrict special courts’ powers, Arslan suggests expanding their powers further. The ongoing cases of the Ergenekon, Sledgehammer and Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) terrorist organizations have not yet gone far enough. The masterminds of these organizations are still at large, seeking an opportunity to carry out their bloody plots. Restricting these courts’ authorities would mean taking a step back in the ongoing trials, when there are only a few steps left to take to conclude the trials, Arslan says.