The most perplexing coalition for revision on special courts by Veysel Ayhan*
As a country the agenda of which changes more rapidly than others across the globe, the hottest topic in Turkey is a government plan to abolish specially authorized courts.
What did these courts do to get abolished? Since their establishment, special courts have managed -- thanks to vast authority vested in them -- to uncover the shady connections of criminal and terror groups and investigate hundreds of dark incidents in Turkey’s history, exposing coup perpetrators and junta members as well as unsolved murders, and the case against the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organization including the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Leading figures of the coup-aspirant junta are currently in prison thanks to special courts. The dark motives of the Ergenekon terrorist organization are becoming clear, again thanks to these courts.
The lion’s share of Turkey’s success against coups and criminal networks belongs to the political power that has lent huge support to special courts so far. Thanks to special courts, Turkish democracy has risen to a level where active duty generals can be called to account, whereas in the past it was once impossible to compel retired generals to testify about past actions. But now these courts are to be abolished “irrevocably.”
Behind the plan to abolish special courts is a perplexing coalition of political parties, a level of support unprecedented in many other legal reforms in the past. Who is in this coalition? The ones who are jumping for joy, who are happier than ever and who say, “Yes, but not enough.” Those who are happy with the plan to abolish special courts and were once saddened by the actions of these courts. An atmosphere of festivity reigns in the Silivri and Hasdal prisons now. Some (coup) suspects incarcerated in these prisons are reportedly packing their suitcases in anticipation of release.
The happiest person of all is a columnist for the Sözcü newspaper, Emin Çölaşan. He dropped hints about the plan regarding abolishment of special courts several days ago when he said, “The solution lies in your hands [the government]. Give an order and make the necessary legal changes.” And his newspaper has been reporting related developments in lead stories with pride, saying, “They are doing what Sözcü previously said.”
Journalist Mustafa Balbay, who once did his utmost to persuade military generals to stage a coup d’état, recently stated in his column that he is “worried that the government will make slight changes to the power of special courts, and the courts will preserve their authority.” He must be delighted to learn that the courts will be abolished. And utmost efforts against the special courts have been made by the Workers’ Party (İP).
The İP has held protests in a number of locations and has called on the people to support them: “We are inviting our people, political parties and mass organizations to join their power with ours against special courts and the Justice and Development Party [AK Party]. Shut down these courts and release the patriots being kept in Silivri and Hasdal, including [İP leader] Doğu Perinçek.” The Aydınlık weekly -- a publication put out by the İP -- is happy about the plan to abolish special courts. “It is you [the government] who created this devil. The AK Party was spurred into action when it realized that the courts would harm the party,” the weekly said in an article.
In addition, we should not forget the efforts of the head of the İstanbul Bar Association, Ümit Kocasakal, who is known for his proximity to coups and the junta, to have the special courts abolished. He lobbied against the courts, saying: “Dictatorships will not last forever. What falls on the shoulders of bar associations is to use their democratic and legitimate power for the abolition of special courts.”
There is a well-known former editor-in-chief who has expended immense energy in the “watering down” of the Ergenekon case who must be proud of his success now. He once said, “Let’s fight shoulder-to-shoulder against special courts,” and he applauded the developments when the first news reports emerged about their possible abolition, saying: “I will not take offense, my friend. Please, go on, esteemed Prime Minister!”
And who else is in the anti-special courts coalition? Murat Karayılan, a senior leader of the PKK and the KCK, used to harshly criticize special courts due to arrests of KCK suspects and call for their abolition. PKK supporters who want the terrorist group’s leader, Abdullah Öcalan, to be released from prison used to hold protests and target special courts in their speeches. “We will continue in our struggle until the pressure and intimidation coming from the special courts is ended. The ones who have been arrested for advocating [freedom for] Öcalan should be set free.”
People who were arrested for alleged involvement in coups were almost certain that special courts would be abolished. Among voice recordings released online, one voice is heard to say: “I do not think it [abolition of special courts] will take too long. I mean, this is what has been said. They are sound sources. A bill is on the agenda. They will release us from prison thanks to that bill.”
This perplexing coalition has supporters inside Parliament as well. The leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, has said on various occasions that special courts were the “AK Party government’s leg in the judiciary,” and argued that these courts should be abolished. He is delighted with recent developments and has not neglected to address Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan smilingly, remarking that he is “only now aware of the necessity to abolish special courts.”
The other political party that favors the abolition of special courts is the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). BDP Chairman Selahattin Demirtaş has said on several occasions that the AK Party should do away with special courts if it has faith in democracy. “The matter is not about members of the National Intelligence Organization [MİT] or saving them from being prosecuted. The government should make a legal amendment to totally abolish special courts,” he said.
When we put all supporters of a government plan to abolish special courts side by side, we see the most perplexing coalition in the history of the republic. The political powers of Turkey should think about what this means.