Jurists decry shadow of appeals court on Cihaner case
Cihaner stands accused of membership in a terrorist organization and falsification of documents.
On Thursday İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court Presiding Judge Köksal Şengün said he would send all documents regarding the Cihaner terror case, in which the chief prosecutor stands accused of membership in the Ergenekon terrorist organization, to the Supreme Court of Appeals. The move sparked concern among Turkey's prominent jurists, who said it may be an attempt to free Cihaner from prison. “Why did the court forward the [Cihaner] file to the Supreme Court of Appeals? It has no legal reason to do so. The Supreme Court of Appeals hears cases related to crimes committed by judges and prosecutors that are linked to their professions.
In murder cases, for example, you cannot send a judge or prosecutor to the appeals court to be tried. Prosecutors and judges do not have the duty to set up a terrorist organization to overthrow the government. Therefore, it is not right to send the Cihaner file to the Supreme Court of Appeals,” stated Sinan Kılıçkaya, head of the Jurists’ Association.
The case concerns an illegal probe Cihaner conducted in Erzincan into a number of religious communities there. According to an indictment prepared against the chief prosecutor, Cihaner was working in line with a suspected military plot to undermine the Justice and Development Party (AK Party).
Titled the Action Plan to Fight Reactionaryism, the plot mentions a subversive plan to plant ammunition and weapons in the houses of some religious communities. The munitions would later be found during a police search and the residents of those places would be accused of terrorist activities. The case is being heard at the Erzurum 2nd High Criminal Court.
Cihaner is also accused of abuse of power and falsification of documents in a probe he conducted, a case being heard by the Supreme Court of Appeals.
A voice recording that appeared on news websites last week led to suspicions of a possible merger of the two cases against the jailed prosecutor. The speakers in the voice recording are allegedly Supreme Court of Appeals Judges Hamdi Yaver Aktan and Fatih Arkan. Aktan tells Arkan that he offered Supreme Court of Appeals judge Ersan Ülker the leadership of the Supreme Court of Appeals if he ensured that the two cases against Cihaner are merged and Cihaner is freed from prison. Ülker is the head of the 11th Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals. According to retired prosecutor Reşat Petek, the Supreme Court of Appeals is not entitled to request the file of the terror-related case against Cihaner.
“The Supreme Court of Appeals cannot merge the two cases against Cihaner. The court can only examine the indictments against the chief prosecutor. And it should send them back after an examination. It cannot rule on the arrest or release of the defendant. This is not possible in terms of the law,” he noted.
Lawyer Erdem Gençay, head of the Law and Life Association, said the Supreme Court of Appeals is causing concern related to the Cihaner case. “We are concerned about the process that kicked off with the forwarding of the Cihaner file to the appeals court. The case in Erzurum should continue. A merger decision by the appeals court would be totally unlawful,” Gençay remarked.
On Friday, Cihaner appeared before the 11th Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals in his own defense in the case, in which he stands accused of abuse of power and falsification of documents.
His family members and colleagues also attended the hearing. Among the attendees were also several suspected members of Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal organization accused of working to topple the government.
The jailed chief prosecutor was brought to the courthouse under high security. He complained about being tried at the Erzurum 2nd High Criminal Court, saying, “I am faced with the terror of a court that lacks authority.”
In the meantime, the chamber decided to file criminal lawsuits against five newspapers and a television station due to their reports on the voice recording. The chamber adjourned the trial until June 11.