Jurists slam assignment of extra prosecutor to Ergenekon probe

Jurists slam assignment of extra prosecutor to Ergenekon probe

There is mounting pressure on HSYK member Ali Suat Ertosun, shown in the picture with his hand in his pocket, to resign from his position.

July 30, 2009, Thursday/ 17:38:00
The assignment of an extra prosecutor to the Ergenekon case, in which dozens of suspects are currently standing trial on charges of attempting to overthrow the government, continues to draw the ire of jurists, who expressed concern that the move may put a stain on the Turkish legal system.

“The assignment of a deputy chief prosecutor to the case is a big danger in the name of the law. There's an impression among the public that the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors [HSYK] does not trust the prosecutors conducting the case and thus preferred to appoint a deputy chief prosecutor to monitor them,” stated Hayrettin Açıkgöz, the president of the Law and Life Association.

The HSYK announced on Monday that the judges and prosecutors conducting the Ergenekon case will remain in their positions but that an extra deputy chief prosecutor, Olcay Seçkin, has been assigned to the case. “The deliberation process [between the HSYK and the Justice Ministry] was very detrimental to the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. The principles of impartiality and independence of judicial bodies have sustained serious blows,” Açıkgöz noted.

The HSYK and the Justice Ministry spent long days over the yearly appointment list of judges and prosecutors over the former's determination to replace judges and prosecutors involved in Turkey's most critical judicial cases.

Bahri Öztürk, a professor of constitutional law, said it is not lawful to assign a deputy chief prosecutor to an ongoing case. “It is most probably the result of a compromise or bargain [between the HSYK and the Justice Ministry] for the final version of the appointment list,” he said.

The professor also said the prospect of an investigation being launched into Ergenekon prosecutors would overshadow the course of the ongoing probe. “It is hard to initiate an investigation against judges and prosecutors and avoid tarnishing judicial cases. An investigation against [Ergenekon] prosecutors may deal a serious blow to the Turkish judiciary,” he noted.

Öztürk's remarks came as criticism of a recent pledge by the Justice Ministry to look into complaints about Ergenekon prosecutors' handling of the case, which may result in the launch of an investigation.

Turkish newspapers reported yesterday that Olcay Seçkin was assigned as an extra deputy chief prosecutor to the Ergenekon case upon the insistence of HSYK members. Seçkin has not dealt with any investigation since 2000.

According to reports, although Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin was opposed to the assignment of an extra deputy chief prosecutor to the case as it would lead to problems of authority in the case, HSYK members demanded that the board vote for Seçkin's appointment.

The deputy chief prosecutor, who has one-and-a-half years left until retirement, is better known for his controversial investigation into a murder case in the Feb. 28, 1997 post-modern coup period.  Oğuz Atak, a bartender, was killed by two men -- Ali Metin Polat and Hüseyin Ulaş -- on May 6, 1997. There were claims that Polat had close relations with Sedat Peker, an Ergenekon suspect.

Seçkin was assigned to investigate the murder but failed to investigate the relationship between Polat and Peker and did not include the claims in his indictment in the murder case. While Ulaş was sentenced to 19 years in jail, Polat was only sentenced to four.

There is also mounting pressure on HSYK member Ali Suat Ertosun, who proposed the replacement of Ergenekon prosecutors and judges and thus dragged the board's deliberations with the Justice Ministry into a stalemate, to resign from his position as he has harmed the impartiality of the judiciary.  “It would not be a sound decision to allow Ertosun to remain in his position. It is unimaginable in democratic countries for a member of the judiciary to appear in the same photo with a suspect in a judicial case. It is unacceptable to turn a blind eye to the move of this member of the judiciary to change the prosecutors and judges conducting the said case. Thus, Ertosun should immediately resign from membership of the HSYK,” stated Jurists' Union President Sinan Kılıçkaya.

Earlier this month, Turkish dailies published a photo showing Ertosun attending secret meetings between army officers at the Kent Hotel in Ankara. According to claims, the participants discussed the country's political landscape and made confidential decisions.

Ertosun reportedly met with a number of Ergenekon suspects during these meetings, among them Cumhuriyet chief columnist İlhan Selçuk (currently jailed as the trial proceeds), retired generals Şener Eruygur and Hurşit Tolon (both released from prison, citing poor health pending trial), retired Gen. Erdal Şenel (detained in January but released, possibly pending trial) and Başkent University Rector Mehmet Haberal.

Kamil Uğur Yaralı, head of the Jurists' Association, said the Supreme Court of Appeals should take the necessary steps against Ertosun if he refuses to resign. Ertosun is expected to hold a press conference today.

In the meantime, a clerk at the Adana courthouse filed a criminal complaint yesterday against four HSYK members and Ömer Faruk Eminağaoğlu, the head of the Judges and Prosecutors Association (YARSAV).

The clerk, İsmail Can, claimed that those five members of the judiciary abused their power when they attempted to downplay the Ergenekon investigation. Eminağaoğlu had angered many jurists and analysts when a Turkish daily published a photo of him at a restaurant with a group of friends, including Independent Republican Party (BCP) Deputy Chairman Engin Aydın, an Ergenekon suspect, earlier this month.

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