Lawyer seeks judge’s release amid mounting criticism of interference in judiciary

Amid growing criticism of the arrest of two judges based on their recent rulings to release Samanyolu Broadcasting Group CEO Hidayet Karaca and 63 police officers, a lawyer representing Mustafa Baier, one of the arrested judges, filed an objection against the arrest of her client on the grounds that it violates Judges and Prosecutors Law No. 2802 and the Constitution.

Lawyer Hacer Yilmaz filed a petition at the Kartal Anatolian Court on Monday demanding the release of her client. Speaking to the press afterwards, Yilmaz said that the detention and arrest of judges due to their decisions is the first of its kind in Turkey because judges and prosecutors can only be tried by the Supreme Court of Appeals. Yilmaz also said that she had argued in the petition that the evidence is not strong enough to keep Judge Baier under arrest.

“We prepared a detailed objection file. The decision to arrest Judge Baier is clearly contradicts the Judges and Prosecutors Law, the Constitution, the European Court of Human Rights [ECtHR] and international criminal law. Judge Baier was arrested upon a decision he made as part of his job. There is no other reason behind the arrest,” Yilmaz said.

On Thursday, on the request of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), the BakirkOy 2nd High Criminal Court in Istanbul ordered the detention of Judges Mustafa Baier and Metin Ozcelik after ruling the release of Karaca and 62 other suspects. The judges then were referred to the court late on Thursday. Ozcelik was arrested hours after his referral to the court, while Baier, who was not in Istanbul at the time, returned and was arrested on Friday evening.

The judges are reportedly accused of being members of a terrorist organization. The fact that investigators from the HSYK requested the arrest of the judges without hearing their defense statements has been deemed unlawful. “Mr. Mustafa Beier and Mr. Metin Ozcelik were arrested solely based on their decisions. The whole process is absolutely illegitimate. I demand that the conditions to be created in which my client can be justly tried. If these conditions are created, the truth will automatically come out anyway. But, these arrests may create intimidation and fear for others [judges],” Yilmaz added.

Coup-era judge says judges were not arrested even in aftermath of 1980 coup

Mehmet Tural, a former judge who served in the aftermath of the 1980 military coup and resigned from his post in protest of the coup perpetrators, has stated that he did not witness the arrest of judges because of their rulings even during the coup era, saying that judges cannot be arrested even if they have made an incorrect decision.

“The rulings made by both judges [about Karaca and the police officers] were completely correct. But even if the decisions had been wrong, judges can by no means be arrested [for their rulings]. The government explicitly says that judges cannot step out of the borders drawn by the government. This has nothing to do with the rule of law. So, when judges come cross any oppression, they should share this with the public and resign. This much more honorable than working under political oppression,” Tural told Today’s Zaman on Monday.

Samanyolu’s Karaca, who has been held in prison without any indictment or any reason for the extension of his arrest, was detained as part of a major media crackdown on Dec. 14, 2014 aimed at intimidating critical media outlets. The operation came just three days before the first anniversary of the massive corruption investigations of Dec. 17 and 25, 2013

Tanal also said that accusing people of having links with the so-called “parallel state” — a term invented by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to refer to the faith-based Gulen movement — is unacceptable. “Creating a fabricated term like parallel state’ and accusing everybody of being part of it has nothing to do with the rule of law. If someone commits a crime, there has to be concrete evidence. Keeping people behind bars for months without concrete evidence or strong accusations clearly shows us how the judicial system in Turkey has been crushed,” he said.

Former top court head: Judges cannot be arrested based on their rulings

Former Supreme Court of Appeals President Sami Selcuk has described the detention of the judges as scandalous, saying that this is only possible in third world countries not governed by the rule of law. “There are rules and laws regarding judges’ authority. A judge has the right to arrest and release someone. This is part of his job. They cannot be hold responsible and arrested because they carry out the necessities of their jobs,” Selcuk stated.

The former top court head also criticized current Supreme Court of Appeals President ismail Ruitu Cirit, who is said to enjoy good relations with President Erdogan, for his remarks on the arrest of the judges. “He [Cirit] announced his personal thoughts. His comments demonstrate his bias. I do not agree with him. The Supreme Court of Appeals has failed to bring the incident to light, Selcuk said.

Following the arrest of the judges, Cirit told the press that the decision by Judges Beier and Ozcelik to release Karaca and the officers was an ultra vires act.

YARSAV criticizes arrest of judges

The arrest of the judges has been harshly criticized by top officials of the Judges and Prosecutors Association (YARSAV), who stressed that the decision to put judges behind bars because of their rulings is an attempt to intimidate the judiciary.

Posting tweets on the official Twitter account of YARSAV on Monday, members stated that the arrest is nothing but an attempt to deter and scare those who might give similar decisions. “Arresting judges because of their rulings is madness. Their arrests are a milestone in the history of the Turkish Republic. This is a disgraceful decision that will deal a heavy blow to the independence of the judiciary,” said the tweets. “We will never obey to any kind of oppression and intimidation. We will continue not to pull our punches and we will speak on the behalf of the principle of the rule of law,” was the message in successive tweets on the YARSAV account.