ABDULLAH – Victims of ErdoIan’s abuse of justice

Victims of ErdoIan’s abuse of justiceAfter embattled Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan’s near fatal blow to the functioning of democratic institutions in EU-candidate Turkey, painstaking and serious efforts to restore the rule of law, democracy and fundamental human rights will be required.The charade was created by pro-ErdoIan judges and prosecutors and carried out against veteran police chiefs who were doing their legally mandated job, unmasking massive wrongdoing in the government ranging from corruption to moles helping the Iran-backed terror network.

The charade has been unfolding in real time before the eyes of the Turkish public throughout the 24-hour news cycle.The case against the maverick law enforcement officials, which was cooked up by the gang that has effectively seized the government, clearly exposed how panicked ErdoIan and his associates are about the eventual reckoning day when they will be called to account for what they have done to the national security of this country.

Arbitrary legal procedures and politically motivated abuses of the criminal justice system have been taking place at an unprecedented rate in Turkey, a country that promised to upholds the norms, standards and values commonly subscribed to by members of NATO, the Council of Europe (CoE) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).The government-orchestrated criminal procedures against the police chiefs, who are national heroes, are based solely on a single inspection report allegedly doctored with orders from Interior Minister Efkan Ala, a man who couldn’t care less about the rule of law and fair trial procedures.

Turks became aware of Ala’s true colors when a tape leaked in March revealed that he had ordered the governor of Istanbul province to arrest a well-known investigative journalist, Mehmet Baransu, for exposing documents detailing massive government profiling. He asked the governor to detain the journalist by breaking into his residence, with or without a court order In another leak, he deliberately encourages a reluctant government official to infringe upon the rights of Baransu, saying the government — using the majority it holds in Parliament — can even pass new legislation to make the violation no longer a criminal offense.

In a way, what Ala started has disgracefully come to fruition recently at the hand of the ruling party’s parliamentary group, which introduced a new law restructuring the judiciary by creating special courts — similar to courts opened during times of war — that the government intends to employ in its witch hunt for opponents and critics. The judges and prosecutors for these kangaroo courts were apparently handpicked, and defendants’ right to appeal to a higher court has been blocked, as the new courts were designed to operate as a close-circuit system Unless the Constitutional Court strikes down the legislation for violating constitutional articles, it will no longer be possible to investigate or indict the officials — including representatives of the judiciary — who ordered or participated in politically motivated abuses of the criminal systemAnother abuse stems from the government’s arbitrary application of specific criminal code provisions on critics, opponents, nongovernmental organizations and independent media Charges leveled against police chiefs who unmasked the Iranian agents — who had infiltrated the Turkish government — include espionage charges that have not a shred of evidence to back them up.

The ErdoIan government wants to take an approach similar to the one utilized in Putin’s Russia, where espionage charges are brought against critics to silence and intimidate.When defense lawyers asked for the evidentiary file for the absurd charges that landed their clients in pre-trial detention, neither the prosecutor nor the judge was able to offer evidence incriminating the police chiefs, who allegedly acted on behalf of a foreign government.

No specific country was cited as ordering the espionage purportedly committed by the police chiefs, and not a single confidential document was procured as evidence to support such a baseless claim The judge even declined to enter defense lawyers’ requests into the record, a move that would strip them of their potential ability to bring legal challenges in the future. Not even a copy of the record of the hearing proceedings was provided to the defense, a violation of the cardinal rules of due process and fair trial protections.

The treatment of lawyers defending the police chiefs is another indication that the rule of the law was effectively suspended in this case. They were not provided sufficient time to converse with their clients.

Access to the judge and court clerk was blocked in the halls of the courthouse with the deployment of hundreds of riot police on the premises. The judge overruled practically every legitimate motion filed by the defense and said he “will do as [he] pleases in the courtroom” when the defense objected.

The case was flawed from the beginning. The defense was not given enough time to examine the prosecutor’s arrest warrants, violating the transparency of judicial procedures.

Lawyers were harassed by hundreds of riot police piled in the courthouse with orders from the government, and they did not even have a secure room to consult with their clients before the arraignment hearings. The confidentiality of attorney-client privilege was clearly violated when the police shadowed lawyers and recorded their every move.

As if adding insult to injury, the government also failed to investigate and prosecute violent criminal acts committed by law enforcement officials against suspects, defense lawyers and court reporters. This is another dimension of how the ErdoIan government abuses the criminal justice system in order to boost an authoritarian style of governance.

In ErdoIan’s Turkey, the judiciary can no longer be considered an independent branch. In fact, it has been turned into an institution serving an abusive and authoritarian power that the ErdoIan regime now represents.

Not only the criminal justice system, but also the administrative system was grossly abused by ErdoIan’s government when it undertook a series of measures to stifle any expression of political dissent and obstruct democratic activities. The deliberate auditing of companies owned by people affiliated with opposition political parties has now become common practice in the Finance Ministry.

While millions of dollars in back taxes were written off for companies close to the government, others were punished severely for even the slightest infraction in the books as a means of intimidation.Sometimes the government even invents a crime and levies an administrative fine on critics.

As such, ErdoIan’s government violates the legal security requirement of the rule of law. This is a clear breach of the principle of “nulla poena sine lege,” which means “no penalty without a law.

”Perhaps, international organizations such as the CoE, the EU or the OSCE are the only institutions that are left to conduct a thorough, independent and impartial examination of the functioning of the criminal justice system in Turkey. They may name and shame the ErdoIan government for its dismal human rights record and its failure to uphold democratic standards.

The fabricated espionage charges, however, made it difficult for international organizations to criticize the Turkish government due to the risk of exposing themselves to accusations of supporting such activity. ErdoIan may also present criticism from abroad as evidence indicating that these charges have some merit.

Nevertheless, the CoE, the EU and the OSCE all have obligations to report on abuses of the criminal justice system in candidate or member states. For one, all the protections afforded to suspects under the right to a fair trial (Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights [ECHR]) were undermined in this case.

The public statements of ErdoIan and other senior officials in the government alleging the guilt of the accused have already turned this case into political issue rather than a legal one. Hence, commenting on this case is no longer considered to be an interference in independent judicial proceedings.

It is an overt display of a politically motivated criminal case to punish anti-corruption and anti-terror investigators while intimidating critics and dissidents in Turkey.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman