Justice Ministry intervenes to resolve issues at Ergenekon court

Justice Ministry 
   intervenes to resolve 
   issues at Ergenekon court

Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Şahin

October 22, 2008, Wednesday/ 18:13:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN
Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Şahin yesterday dispatched Deputy Undersecretary Mustafa Kökçam and head of the Prisons General Directorate Nizamettin Kalaman to Silivri Prison to investigate the sources of the logistical problems there that disrupted the beginning of the Ergenekon trial proceedings.
Şahin’s instructions were revealed on his way out of the Justice Ministry yesterday. He responded to questions from the press about the problems encountered in conducting the trial during the Ergenekon case’s first hearing on Monday by stating that the court conducting the trial and the justices assigned to the case were primarily responsible for arranging the trial chamber. It was initially planned for the trial to be held at the Beşiktaş Courthouse, but the chamber used for trials there was not large enough, Şahin said. He added, “That’s why the Justice Ministry has ended up in this situation, following [the coordinating justices’] own request for a 280-person capacity chamber.”

The minister stated that he had met with the İstanbul chief prosecutor regarding the problems encountered. “Some people have eight, some have 10 lawyers. The prosecutor expressed his opinion that all of these lawyers entering the courtroom at once was among the reasons why [we encountered] problems.” He said, therefore, the case’s panel of judges had decided that each defendant can have no more than three lawyers. “Accordingly, I hope that from Thursday onward we won’t encounter similar problems.”

Şahin also said he would send the Justice Ministry deputy undersecretary and head of the Prisons General Directorate to Silivri Prison to inspect the conditions. The minister noted that journalists reporting the case had also encountered difficulty on the first day of the case proceedings and assured that a suitable, comfortable working environment for members of the press would also be created.

The justice minister noted that if the panel of judges presiding over the Ergenekon case requested a change of venue, his ministry would assist them in setting another one up. “If they say the trial cannot proceed here, that it’s not possible to do so, then the Justice Ministry will provide them with assistance. But it’s completely at the discretion of the panel of judges.”

In response to the question, “Has state prosecutor Zekeriya Öz, who is leading the Ergenekon investigation, begun any proceedings against any judges or prosecutors currently serving as part of the judiciary?” Şahin replied: “No. No such proceeding has been instigated by our ministry and there have been no moves to begin one. Let’s not make a big deal out of the subject and open a path which would affect public opinion.”

Moving on to reports that as part of the Ergenekon investigation, the home of former state prosecutor Ertaç Giray had been searched yesterday morning, Şahin said: “He’s a former prosecutor. Maybe he is connected to the investigation; I have no way of knowing. All of these investigations, the statements taken, the detainments and arrests are all completely outside the auspices of the Justice Ministry. These activities are being pursued by the independent judiciary. I’m watching, just like you are.”

‘The MGK will take up the issue’

In response to questions over incidents in İstanbul and the Southeast involving supporters of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Şahin called everyone to exercise common sense. “It won’t do to break, overturn and burn. If you have thoughts on the topic of improving the leadership of the country, this is not the way to achieve this goal. I think that some incidents of this type are desired by the [PKK] organization in certain regions. For this reason, citizens possessing any common sense will, of course, not participate in such acts. The security forces are taking any necessary precautions.”

The issue will be taken up at today’s meeting of the National Security Council (MGK), Şahin said, stressing that the Higher Counterterrorism Board (TMYK) had also discussed such measures at its meetings. “I think that terror organizations have goals such as agitating the political scene of Turkey and opening a path to chaos. Not a single Turkish citizen should be involved in mistakes of judgment that serve these goals.”

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