Efforts to save Erzincan Chief Public Prosecutor İlhan Cihaner from prison date back to early May of this year. The efforts proved fruitful on Friday when the 11th Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals decided unanimously to merge the two cases against the chief prosecutor and set him free on the grounds that there is not strong enough evidence of a crime to keep him in jail. Below is a brief chronology of efforts to rescue the beleaguered prosecutor from prison.
May 14, 2010: In a voice recording, Supreme Court of Appeals Judge Hamdi Yaver Aktan was heard talking on the phone with an unidentified individual on possible ways to keep Cihaner from prison. Cihaner was arrested in February on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, abuse of power and falsification of documents. In the recording, Aktan says the two cases against Cihaner will be merged at the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Erzurum 2nd High Criminal Court, where Cihaner was being tried on charges of terrorist organization membership, will be forced to withdraw from the case.
May 14, 2010: On the same day, the 11th Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals decided to request the Cihaner terror file from the Erzurum court. The chamber later filed a criminal complaint with the Justice Ministry against officials at the Erzurum 2nd High Criminal Court on the grounds that they had not followed basic rules of etiquette and proper conduct in their responses to earlier queries by the high court and for their failure to send the necessary documents.
May 18, 2010: In a voice recording of Supreme Court of Appeals judges Aktan and Fatih Arkan, the former was heard telling Arkan that he offered Supreme Court of Appeals judge Ersan Ülker the leadership of the Supreme Court of Appeals if he could ensure that the two cases against Cihaner were merged and Cihaner was freed from prison. Ülker is the head of the 11th Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals.
May 19, 2010: In the wake of the voice recording, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin vowed to pursue the appeals court plan to save Cihaner from prison.
May 28, 2010: Ülker asked for “a little more patience” from Cihaner, who he called “İlhan” in a rather informal and friendly manner, during one of the hearings at the 11th Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals. The chief prosecutor was complaining that the Erzurum court had not sent the file of his terror case yet when Ülker said, “Just a little more patience, İlhan.” The brief but odd conversation was an open indication that Ülker was under the strong influence of the parties wishing to keep Cihaner from prison. June 7, 2010: In a separate voice recording, speakers referred to Aktan as the “head of Ergenekon’s judicial arm.”
June 11, 2010: The 11th Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals announced that it would decide whether to merge two ongoing legal cases against Cihaner without waiting for the documents regarding the terror case in which the prosecutor is accused of membership in Ergenekon.