HSYK opposed replacement of Ergenekon prosecutor before probe

HSYK opposed replacement of 
   Ergenekon prosecutor before probe

Zekeriya Öz is the top prosecutor involved in the investigation into Ergenekon, a clandestine organization nested within the state and bureaucracy aiming to foment chaos in society, leading to a military takeover.

August 26, 2010, Thursday/ 17:38:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN
The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) strongly opposed the replacement of Zekeriya Öz, the top prosecutor involved in the Ergenekon investigation, three years ago before the launch of the probe into Turkey’s most notorious criminal gang, which is believed to be nested within the state bureaucracy and stands accused of working to overthrow the government, a columnist for the Bugün daily claimed on Wednesday. The board is, however, now exerting its best efforts to remove the prosecutor from the investigation.

According to Adem Yavuz Arslan, Öz was included among a number of prosecutors to be replaced in the yearly reappointment of judges and prosecutors in 2007. He was supposed to be assigned to a prosecutor’s office in an İstanbul district. However, certain HSYK members strongly opposed the idea and argued that the prosecutor should keep his position at the Beşiktaş Courthouse in İstanbul and continue working on his ongoing criminal files.

After days-long deliberations, the board decided, with a majority of votes, to allow Öz to remain in his position.

However, with the launch of the ongoing investigation into Ergenekon -- a clandestine criminal gang charged with working to unseat the government -- in July 2007, the attitude of the HSYK toward Öz changed completely. The board has twice attempted to remove the prosecutor from the investigation since then.

According to Bugün daily columnist Adem Yavuz Arslan, the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, which has twice attempted to remove top Ergenekon prosecutor Zekeriya Öz from the investigation since the beginning of the Ergenekon probe, strongly opposed his replacement three years ago. The probe began in 2007 with a raid on a shanty house in İstanbul

HSYK attempts against Öz were thwarted by the Ministry of Justice. Dozens of suspected Ergenekon members, including those from the military, academia and the business world, have been jailed as part of the investigation into the group. The probe began in 2007 with a raid on a shanty house in İstanbul which police discovered was being used as an arms depot. The ensuing investigation revealed questionable relationships between a variety of individuals and groups with a wide range of, and even opposing, political ideologies and associations and their involvement in past incidents, such as unsolved assassinations and suspicious bombings.

Last week the HSYK moved to remove a number of judges and prosecutors from Turkey’s most high-profile investigations and trials, including Öz. The move led to a disagreement between the HSYK and the Ministry of Justice. Talks over this year’s appointment list eventually reached a deadlock, and the ministry refused to cooperate with the board over the removal of the judges and prosecutors.

The future of the judges and prosecutors is still unclear as the justice minister has declined to sit at the negotiating table with the HSYK unless the board withdraws its proposal to remove them. Officials from the Ministry of Justice reportedly say the planned removals are unlawful and are aimed at directly and unlawfully interfering in a number of ongoing investigations and trials.

HSYK unwilling about constitutional amendments

In a separate development, it has become clear that the HSYK is opposed to a number of planned changes to the Constitution due to an “underdeveloped democracy” in Turkey.

The board is known to be staunchly opposed to a government-backed constitutional amendment package on which Turkey will vote in a Sept. 12 referendum. The package contains an article that aims to make changes to the structure of the HSYK.

The HSYK recently published a leaflet criticizing the content of the planned amendments to the Constitution. According to the board, the planned changes to the structure of the HSYK would be viable only in an advanced democracy. “In young or new democracies, however, such changes are not recommended as a historical legal culture is not rooted, and the system is still open to abuse,” the leaflet notes.

The proposed overhaul of the HSYK’s structure would increase the number of the board’s members from seven to 22. Four members of the board will be appointed by the president, while three will be selected by the Supreme Court of Appeals. Two members will be named by the Council of State and one will be selected by the Justice Academy of Turkey. The remaining members will be elected by judges and prosecutors.

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