HSYK’s Okur says was wrong to appoint judges to penal courts

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) 1st Chamber President Ibrahim Okur has said the board was wrong to appoint some controversial figures to the newly established penal courts of peace in Istanbul.

The 1st chamber of the HSYK, the composition of which was redesigned by the government following a corruption operation on Dec. 17, has already appointed 110 penal judges of peace across Turkey, six of whom will serve in Istanbul.

Penal judges of peace are special judges who have been granted many powers through a recently approved omnibus law introduced by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). The role of these judges has been criticized for the broad powers they exert over investigations and other courts’ rulings.

Okur, in remarks to the Hurriyet daily on Friday, confessed to having made mistakes in the appointment of the six penal judges of peace in Istanbul. Some of these six judges made a number of controversial decisions in the fallout of the Dec. 17 corruption and bribery operation as part of which over 50 people, including the sons of some then-Cabinet ministers, businessmen and bureaucrats, were detained.

“We knew that Hulusi Pur [who was appointed to the Istanbul 2nd Penal Court of Peace] decided to release six people who had been arrested as part of the Dec. 17 [corruption] investigation. Had we known that the three other judges made decisions in favor of the [corruption] suspects, the picture might be different now. We made a mistake,” Okur stated.

The individual who will serve as Istanbul 3rd penal judge of peace is the same judge who ruled to release Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab and the sons of former Ministers Muammer Guler and Zafer aIlayan from prison in late February. The judge who reversed a decision to freeze the assets of former Halkbank General Manager Suleyman Aslan, a major suspect in the corruption probe, in early February has been appointed Istanbul 4th penal judge of peace. In addition, the judge who decided to release six leading suspects in the corruption operation, including Aslan, has been appointed Istanbul 2nd penal judge of peace.
Regrets about judges involved in Dec. 17 probe

On Thursday evening, Okur appeared on a TV program on the CNN Turk channel, saying, “Attacks on the judiciary increased dramatically after the corruption operations of Dec. 17.” “We [members of the higher judiciary] have preferred to keep silent in order not to be dragged into the quarrel. We have waited for things to get back on the rails. But people’s confidence in the judiciary has dropped to as low as 26-27 percent. We all have a share of responsibility in this [decrease]. We will be faced with chaos if we lose our confidence in the judiciary. We have to help things get back on track,” he noted.

Okur also commented on the reassignment of hundreds of prosecutors since the Dec. 17 investigation. He said those prosecutors had been unjustly reassigned.

“We reassigned them in the middle of winter. We reassigned them even though they had not requested to be reassigned. We breached our own principles. Some of those colleagues [prosecutors] were deputy chief prosecutors. We reassigned them as simple prosecutors. Their reassignment does not prove that those colleagues are members of a [criminal] group. I want to underline that there is no investigation [into the reassigned prosecutors]. Injustice should not have been done to those prosecutors,” Okur added.

Since the launch of the major corruption operation on Dec. 17, more than 40,000 police officers, bureaucrats, judges and prosecutors have been reassigned for no official reason other than their suspected links to the Hizmet movement. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan claims that the Dec. 17 operation and its preceding investigation were orchestrated by the Hizmet movement in an attempt to overthrow his government. The movement denies the accusation.