By MELIS TON
Turkey’s judiciary has never involved in a healthy relationship with the executive yet in the wake of the 2013 probe into the corruption scandal in which President Erdogan’s family and members of his cabinet were involved, the efforts of the government to influence the judiciary in a covert manner and to bring it under guardianship have gained momentum. To prevent the corruption in which government officials and their relatives are involved from surfacing, and to cover up the investigations, swift actions were taken. First, using MPs, the majority of whom never question instructions coming from above, they tried to block the corruption probe by illegally making changes in criminal and procedural law. When this was not enough, illegal instructions were given to members of the judiciary, and those who refused to co-operate were openly blackmailed. Soon after that, changes were made to the way the supreme judiciary counsel functioned, and by appointing pro-government people to critical positions, the judiciary was remodelled. By the use of interventions such as these, the biggest corruption probe in the history of the country was covered up within a couple of months. Not content with this, they began investigations into the officials who had taken part in the corruption probe. Then, as a result of interventions in the election of the members of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), they ensured that majority of the elected members were pro-government thus putting the judiciary under the total guardianship of the state.
While at first this illegal situation caused some reaction, it soon started to lose momentum as people became fearful of raising their voices even though they strongly disapproved of what was taking place.
Within the scope of these developments, those who had originally carried out the corruption investigations against the governing powers were investigated, purged and arrested. Then those who spoke out against unlawful proceedings and defended the law were investigated too. Then anyone and everyone who stood in opposition to the government came under investigation.
Knowing that the judiciary was completely under its control, the governing powers began to use the judiciary as a weapon; a stick to beat their political opponents with. Even during the election campaign process, there were ongoing investigations and oppression of opponents for the political speeches they made in public rallies and on the streets. This was then taken a step further, and with the help of the State of Emergency, indictments charging opposition MPs were sent to Parliament and their parliamentary immunity from prosecution was lifted. During these investigations, a majority of the MPs were arrested. Selahattin Demirtaş, co-chair of the pro-Kurdish opposition party, and ten other MPs serving in the same party were arrested with the same charges.
Demirtas had won more votes than any other Kurdish MP before him, and he had been able to take his party from being a party that appealed only to Kurds, to a party that appealed to a wider electorate: from social democrats to members of the LGBT community, from religious people to ethnic minority communities.
In the 7th of June, 2015 general election, Erdogan’s loss of the majority of votes he needed to secure a mandate, was the result of the increase in Demirtas’s popularity and the performance of his party which had managed to exceed the ten percent electoral threshold. Erdogan resorted to a path which was questionable, whether it was legitimate or not, to prevent the formation of a coalition government on the 7th of June, resulting in a second election being called on the 1st of November. From the 7th of June to the 1st of November, a series of suspicious bombings were carried out by the PKK, the armed wing of the Kurdish movement. The reason the bombings are considered suspicious is that they caused a reduction in sympathy for the Kurdish movement and put the political wing of the movement, represented by Demirtas on the spot. As a result, the party lost votes in the November 1st election, while Erdogan’s party again secured the single-party government it had hoped for, by taking the nationalist votes, which were a reaction against the terrorist attacks.
Despite claims by those in power, that the arrest of Demirtas and other opposition MPs was legal, and that the judiciary was independent and that it ruled accordingly, it became evident that the charges, the dates of these actions, the unlawful procedures conducted during the investigations, and the political statements before the investigations, were not legal and that the judiciary acted unlawfully upon receiving instructions from the governing powers. All the arrested MPs were charged with terrorism, but the crimes they were charged with had taken place two years earlier or even earlier than that. The fact that the judiciary had previously taken no action to bring charges against the MPs but had started proceedings only after a statement issued by the governing powers saying, “They must be judged and they will be judged,” was regarded as the greatest indication of unlawful conduct upon an order from the governing powers and of the judiciary not being independent. However, after the start of the investigations, when, as yet, no decisions had been made concerning the suspects, the instructive statements made by members of the ruling party, such as: “They must be arrested,” and “The judiciary will do what is expected of them…” and subsequent arrest decisions soon surfaced that showed just how unlawful the procedures were. Everything was now under the control of the governing powers. After these political statements were made, one of the opposition MPs was released, and not only was the member of the judiciary who had made the decision punished, but the MP was also immediately re-arrested, undermining the European Convention on Human Rights, the Constitution and general rules of law.
The Erdogan administration, on the one hand, co-operated with the ultra-nationalist groups in the army, the police and the bureaucracy to help him elude the corruption investigations under the guise of ‘the fight against terrorism’ and destroyed the Kurdish populated cities in the South East of the country, and on the other hand, arrested Kurdish politicians, namely Demirtas, and mayors, and party administrators. In this way, alternative arguments favouring peace by building an effective opposition to Erdogan’s Turkish-Kurdish clash-based policy have been silenced, at the expense of the millions of Kurdish people, who have had to abandon their destroyed homes and have been forced to search for new homes in other cities…