Top administrative court overturns abrupt intervention in judiciary

Top administrative court overturns abrupt intervention in judiciary

Council of State building. (Photo: Today's Zaman)

December 27, 2013, Friday/ 11:12:00

The Council of State on Friday overturned a controversial government amendment requiring police officers to inform their superiors about all investigations, a government move that came after the eruption of the ongoing corruption scandal and which was considered to be interference in the judiciary.

The Turkish Bar Association (TBB) filed a lawsuit seeking the amendment's annulment and on Friday the 10th Chamber of the Council of State ruled to overturn the amendment.

In an overnight change to police procedure for judicial investigations last week, the government stifled prosecutorial independence by requiring police officers to report all investigations to their superiors. In the current probe into allegations of corruption and bribery, that would have forced the police to inform the interior minister, whose son was one of the subjects of the investigation.

The legal change came on the heels of an investigation launched by İstanbul prosecutors into alleged bribery linked to public tenders. Two sons of Cabinet ministers and an Iranian-Azerbaijani businessman, Reza Zarrab, are among 24 suspects arrested as part of the investigation into bribery and fraud that has been making headlines since last week.

Police officers and prosecutors involved in the investigation did not inform their superiors of the probe, prompting a fiery reaction from the government when the story broke. The amendment provided the government with the details of all investigations.

The government has also removed or reassigned hundreds of police officers involved in the investigation, including a purge of its top officers in the last week. On Wednesday, the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office ordered the detention of 30 suspects, including a number of deputies and businessmen. The İstanbul Police Department has not complied with the order, however.

Prosecutor Muammer Akkaş, known for his work on sensitive cases like the Ergenekon coup plot and the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, was leading the investigation, seen as the second round of a graft probe that has shaken Turkey's political establishment.

On Thursday, Akkaş was removed from this second investigation -- a move that could further cast a shadow over the corruption probe. He told the media that the case was taken from him without any reason being cited, effectively blocking him from doing his job.

One hour after Akkaş's delivery of a written statement to the press, İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Çolakkadı spoke to reporters to deny claims that he had received orders to obstruct the investigation from the justice minister.

Çolakkadı said that public prosecutors should inform deputy chief public prosecutors about major investigations immediately or else there will be chaos and that some prosecutors had been carrying out investigations for two years without the knowledge of their superiors.

Following the statements of the prosecutors, Turkey's top judicial body harshly criticized the new judicial police regulation, saying that it is in violation of the Constitution.

The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) said in a statement on Thursday that state institutions and executive offices must act in line with the principle of equality before the law in all of their activities. It added that an independent judiciary is a guarantee to protect citizens from unjust rulers. The statement also noted that a judicial check on rulers is an essential part of a democracy and governance according to the rule of law.

On Friday it was revealed that in addition to the police, the gendarmerie also resisted executing prosecutor Akkaş's order to detain suspects. In a document dated Dec. 25, Akkaş asks the gendarmerie to detain a list of numerous suspects, but his order was not followed by either the police or the gendarmerie.

Also on Friday, following the Council of State's decision to overturn the amendment to a regulation governing police-judiciary relations, the Turkish Bar Association (TBB) issued a statement and expressed its hope for the proper establishment of the rule of law.

The statement said that the amended regulation was contrary to the pillars of the constitutional regime. The TBB also vowed to closely monitor the ongoing corruption probe to prevent the closure of the investigation. The association similarly stated its determination to inquire into allegations that the judiciary intervenes in the administration of the country.