Doubts loom over court’s decision to release Col. Çiçek

Doubts loom over court’s decision to release Col. Çiçek

Colonel Dursun Çiçek

July 03, 2009, Friday/ 17:16:00
As a court in İstanbul released a senior military officer who is suspected of drafting an alleged plan to discredit the governing Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and having links to Ergenekon -- which is accused of fomenting chaos to trigger a coup to overthrow the government -- doubts over the speedy process of granting his release have arisen.

Col. Dursun Çiçek -- whose arrest came late on Tuesday following the Military Prosecutors' Office's judgment last week that there was no evidence implicating the colonel -- was released pending trial on Wednesday afternoon by the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court, a court which was mentioned as “favorable” by the wife of retired Gen. Şener Eruygur, also a suspect in the ongoing trial against Ergenekon.

Çiçek was the first suspect who was called to testify and then arrested in the Ergenekon case among the previously detained 21 military professionals on active duty. The İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court passed a decision at 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday for his arrest and his lawyer immediately presented an appeal. The team of jurists to evaluate the appeal was completed only on Monday with the appointment of Faik Saban, a judge of the 13th High Criminal Court, to the 14th High Criminal Court. The judges of the 14th High Criminal Court immediately asked the Ergenekon prosecutors to them send their argument. They then convened outside regular hours on Wednesday when they ruled for Çiçek's release pending trial, even though they had seven days in which to make a decision. Mete Göktürk, a former chief prosecutor of the now dissolved State Security Court (DGM), said that this is indeed is what needs to be done in a country where the rule of law exists.

“The process should be thorough and speedy. This is what should be done,” he said. But not all citizens of the country have been subject to such a speedy process. Other suspects, both in the Ergenekon and other routine cases, usually have to wait for days, if not months, for the country's slow justice system.

Protesting Çiçek's release within 18 hours of his arrest in its own ironic way, the Young Civilians movement arranged a ceremony in front of the İstanbul court saying that “Judge Faik Saban should have an entry in the Guinness Record Book” for his high speed in passing the decision for Çiçek's release.

Reşat Petek, a former chief prosecutor, said what makes the process suspicious is the speedy deliberation over the case, pointing out that Çiçek's release does not mean that he is “not guilty,” because his trial is pending for being a member of Ergenekon and, at the same time, he is “innocent until proven guilty.”

He also said there are other Ergenekon suspects such as Gen. Eruygur, Gen. Hurşit Tolon, former İstanbul University Rector Kemal Alemdaroğlu and journalist İlhan Selçuk who have been released pending trial.

Gen. Hurşit Tolon, a former 1st Army Corps commander, who had been in jail as an Ergenekon suspect for seven months, was released in February by the İstanbul 12th High Criminal Court, which cited “insufficient evidence” and “his age” as the reasons for his release. However, the court placed an international travel ban on Tolon, who had appealed 11 times in six different courts.

‘Ergenekon process continuing'

“Let's not forget that the investigation is continuing,” Petek said and added that when Çiçek was arrested there was the important National Security Council (MGK) meeting in which the “Action Plan to Fight Reactionaryism,” was discussed among other topics. Çiçek's name appears on this document allegedly prepared by the military.

A military court investigating the document, made public two weeks ago by the Taraf daily, dismissed the case, saying the document had not been prepared by a unit of the General Staff and that further consideration was not necessary. The military disowned the plan and said it would not prosecute Çiçek as it was unclear if the document was genuine.

Çiçek was arrested days after Parliament, controlled by the AK Party, passed a bill that paves the way for military personnel suspected of involvement in coups to be tried in civilian courts for the first time.

Former prosecutor Petek said he is worried about a possible pressure by the military on the judiciary and politics because at the MGK meeting on June 30, they decided to form a commission to evaluate this historic bill, which still has to be approved by the President to become a law.

“There are doubts again about a possibility of guardianship of the military over politics,” Petek added. Parliament recently passed an amendment allowing the trial of military personnel in civilian courts for the forming of gangs, acts of terror and crimes against the Constitution. The amendment also brings an end to the trial of civilians in military courts.

The European Union, which has been asking Turkey to bring its military under full civilian control, supported the latest amendment to the Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK).

However, the main opposition Republican People's Party's (CHP) announced that it will challenge the law in the Constitutional Court if the President approves it.

Ali Bayramoğlu, a political analyst writing a column in the Yeni Şafak daily, asked in his article yesterday, “Who holds the ropes?”

In response, he explained the series of developments since the General Staff denied any involvement in the alleged plot and concluded that the judiciary process against Ergenekon is ongoing despite the Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ's efforts to impede it.

“Even though he announced that it [the alleged document] was nothing more than ‘a piece of paper,' the judiciary process is continuing. In short, the military's arena to maneuver is shrinking.”

Asked by Today's Zaman whether or not he thinks the same way after Çiçek's release, he said that his opinion has not changed.

“There might have been influences on the court. This is not my area of interest. What is important is that the general judiciary process. And it is continuing.”

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