“Our concern is in regards to the fate of current cases such as Ergenekon, Zirve and Hrant Dink. Changes to the law must not affect the progress of these key cases which are not only important for the non-Muslim community but also for the whole of Turkey,” said Tatyos Bebek, a civil society activist from the Armenian community.
Bebek was referring to the Ergenekon case -- a clandestine organization nested within the state that was trying to manipulate and overthrow the democratically elected government; the Cage (Kafes) case -- a plan that targeted Turkey's non-Muslims to create chaos and grounds for military interference; the Zirve case, which involved the killing of Christian missionaries in Malatya; and the murder of Hrant Dink, a Turkish citizen of Armenian origin.
He added that he was against the lawlessness practiced by the notorious State Security Courts (DGMs) and that restricting the authority of special courts could be a positive step in that regard as long as progress in important cases continues to be made.
“Government officials say that ongoing cases will not be affected by the changes. That's what we expect. If the changes are going to eliminate the allegations that there are unfair practices conducted by these special courts, then the new law will bring positive changes,” said İvo Vedat Molinas, the editor-in-chief of Shalom, a Jewish community newspaper in Turkey.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) eliminated the DGMs and instead set up the current special courts in 2004 to align the Turkish judicial system with that of the EU and to implement reforms recommended by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). In addition, members of the legal community argued that strong criminal networks nested within the state cannot be brought to justice by ordinary courts and prosecutors.
Specially authorized courts were credited with dismantling gangs and organized crime in Turkey and going after coup-plotting senior generals for the first time in the republic's history, which has seen four military coups and numerous attempts.
However, human rights lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz, who is also the lawyer for the families of the brutally murdered Christians at the Zirve Publishing house in Malatya in April 2007, said it is important to have “special measures” to fight organized crime and gangs in Turkey but that it must be done at the prosecution level.
“What we need are more powerful prosecutors who can prepare good indictments for cases. What is important in law is the preparation of well-rounded indictments. When there is a good indictment, it is not that important which court those cases are heard in,” he said.
He also said that the ongoing cases must not be hurt by the new changes but there is no information yet about what changes will be made.
According to the government's plans, the new bill will be passed before Parliament adjourns for summer recess on July 1. There are predictions that the new law might lead to the release of hundreds of gang members, drug traffickers, terrorists and terror suspects.