The HSYK stripped prosecutors overseeing the Ergenekon, Balyoz (Sledgehammer) and match-fixing investigations of their special authority. Savaş Kırbaş, the specially authorized prosecutor overseeing the Balyoz investigation, was removed from his post and appointed İstanbul deputy chief public prosecutor.
Match-fixing investigation public prosecutor Mehmet Berk was appointed Küçükçekmece deputy chief public prosecutor, while İstanbul Specially Authorized Prosecutor Cihan Kansız, who was overseeing the ongoing Ergenekon case, was appointed İstanbul deputy chief public prosecutor.
Ergenekon is a clandestine terrorist organization accused of plotting to overthrow the government. An indictment claims that the Ergenekon network is behind a series of political assassinations carried out over the past two decades for the ultimate purpose of triggering a military coup and taking over the government. Sledgehammer is a suspected coup plot, allegedly drawn up in 2003 and discussed at a seminar held at the General Staff's Selimiye Barracks in March of that year. The plot aimed to unseat the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government through acts of violence in Turkey.
HSYK’s 1st Chamber head İbrahim Okur told reporters on Wednesday that it was not the decision of the board to change the posts of those prosecutors, but that the prosecutors themselves had petitioned the HSYK to be appointed to other positions.
Rüstem Eryılmaz, the chief judge in a case concerning the 2007 murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, was also removed from his post, and appointed the chief judge of the Bakırköy High Criminal Court. The presiding judge of the Diyarbakir 6th High Criminal Court, Menderes Yılmaz, who was dealing with the investigation into the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella political organization for all groups related to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), was removed from his post and appointed to İzmir.
Judge Oktay Kuban was appointed to İstanbul. He was presiding over the court when he ordered the release of War Academies Deputy Commander Gen. Yurdaer Olcan, who was a suspect in the Balyoz investigation.
According to the Balyoz plan, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) had devised a systematic plan to create chaos in society by bombing mosques and attacking popular museums with Molotov cocktails. The desired result was to increase pressure on the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government for failing to provide security for its citizens. The attacks were to eventually lead to a military coup.
Kuban was also the judge who had earlier ordered the release of Col. Dursun Çiçek. Çiçek stands accused of being the author of the Action Plan to Fight Reactionaryism, which outlines a TSK plan to damage the image of the AK Party government and the faith-based Gülen movement in the eyes of the public, to downplay the Ergenekon investigation and to gather support for members of the military arrested as part of the inquest.
Judge Kuban is also remembered for voting against accepting indictments in two other military plots, one to assassinate several naval admirals and another named the Cage plan, which is believed to have been drafted by a group of Naval Forces Command officers to intimidate the country’s non-Muslim population by assassinating prominent figures in their communities and thereby undermining the power of the ruling party.
The HSYK reshuffle comes amidst talks of a plan by the AK Party government to revise an article in the Turkish criminal code that gives special authority to courts and prosecutors to investigate organized crime, coup plots and terrorism-related crimes. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said last week that the country’s specially authorized courts may be totally abolished, contrary to statements made by a state minister on Monday that no revision is planned in this regard as part of a government plan to overhaul the Turkish Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK).
The possible amendment has raised concerns among Turkey’s legal community about the future of ongoing coup cases. Several jurists have said Turkey would lose strength in its fight against coups and activities opposed to constitutional order and the national will, if it was indeed proposed to divest civilian prosecutors of their authority to investigate crimes committed against the constitutional order.
AK Party Gaziantep deputy Şamil Tayyar strongly criticized the HSYK appointments, which he defined as “a coup against the judiciary.” In his Twitter account, the deputy posted a message that read: “The HSYK appointments are a June 13 coup against the judiciary. It is rape against the Sept. 12  referendum.” Tayyar also said the appointments would cause chaos in the judiciary.
AK Party Deputy Chairman Hüseyin Çelik spoke to reporters about the appointments on Thursday, and said the HSYK move would not impact the future of ongoing coup probes. He said the prosecutors asked to be appointed elsewhere. He also noted that a government plan to amend an article of the CMK, which concerns specially authorized courts and prosecutors, is not aimed to save coup suspects from prison. “Courts hearing cases related to organized crimes will remain as long as terrorist organizations and organized criminal groups exist. Their names may be changed, and those courts may not be called specially authorized courts. But their functions will never change,” he stated.