The abolishment of specially authorized courts or restrictions on their authority stemming from an amendment proposed for Article 250 of the Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK) may change the course of ongoing coup and terrorism trials in the country and even make the release of jailed suspects in these cases possible.
The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government is currently working on revising CMK Article 250, which gives special authority to courts and prosecutors investigating organized crime and coup plots. It also gives civilian prosecutors the power to investigate military personnel accused of crimes that threaten national security, violate the Constitution or attempt to topple the government during peacetime.
According to media reports, the amendment would restrict specially authorized courts only to armed terror crimes and eliminate these courts' regional sovereignty.
If such an amendment is made to Article 250, ongoing trials of outlawed members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)/Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) in the eastern provinces of Van and Diyarbakır would be transferred to provinces where the alleged crimes were committed. This means ongoing trials into the Sledgehammer coup case, the Ergenekon gang and the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup will go back to square one as these trials will be taken from specially authorized courts and transferred to high criminal courts in Ankara.
However, there are claims that these cases might be kept as exceptions, with a special article to be added to the amendment.
In addition, investigations into the death of Grand Unity Party (BBP) leader Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu in a suspicious helicopter crash in 2009, the Feb. 28, 1997 military coup and the Uludere incident, which concerns the killing of 34 civilians by Turkish military jets in December, would be taken from specially authorized prosecutors because they are not considered armed terror crimes.
The amendment would also reportedly make it harder for civilian prosecutors to investigate members of the military. Prosecutors would have to receive permission from the General Staff to investigate its staff. A similar procedure would also be in effect for police officers and high-level bureaucrats. No investigation would be possible if prosecutors fail to receive permission from the related bodies.
Thus, prosecutors would have to receive permission from the Prime Ministry, the Defense Ministry or the Interior Ministry in order to continue the trials of the suspects jailed in these cases. In the absence of permission, the trials of these suspects would be halted, and their release from prison would be possible.
In addition, an ongoing trial into suspects charged with corruption in the İzmir Metropolitan Municipality would be transferred to a regular court from a specially authorized court as permission would be necessary before the launch of corruption cases in municipalities and public institutions.
Prospects of the abolishment of specially authorized courts has concerned some jurists, who say such a move would result in Turkey being convicted by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) for lengthy trial periods.
Professor Murat Şen, the dean of Melikşah University's Faculty of Law, said specially authorized courts should neither be abolished nor their authority restricted.
If these courts are abolished, Şen said, trials continuing since 2007 would last longer and Turkey would be convicted by the ECtHR for violating the principle of concluding a trial within a reasonable amount of time.
Meanwhile, a news report published by the Yeni Şafak daily on Wednesday refuted claims that the CMK amendment would influence the course of ongoing trials such as Ergenekon or Sledgehammer and ensure the release of individuals jailed in these cases.
According to the daily, the amendment would only restrict the authority of specially authorized courts. It would not make permission from the prime minister necessary to investigate the chief of General Staff and force commanders, contrary to claims.
Speaking to the TGRT channel on Tuesday, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin tried to ease the concerns of those who fear the amendment would hinder progress in ongoing coup trials.
He said it is out of the question for the government to make a legal amendment that would hinder coup trials.
"The effective fight against coup attempts will continue; there is no need for concern to this effect," he said.
The minister explained that the government's goal is to ensure that the fight against crime and criminals is made in line with universal principles of justice.