TODAY’S – Bureaucracy reshuffles have transformed state institutions

Bureaucracy reshuffles have transformed state institutionsLarge-scale personnel reshuffles in the police force and judiciary following a major corruption scandal which came to public attention on Dec. 17, 2013 have continued throughout 2014, damaging the respectability of state institutions.

More than 20,000 police officers and hundreds of judges and prosecutors were transferred, reassigned or dismissed after Dec. 17, when scores of people — including government officials and three ministersand#39 sons — were detained by police and four ministers were embroiled in a bribery scandal.

The ministers from the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) — former Economy Minister Zafer aIlayan, former Interior Minister Muammer Guler, former Environment Minister ErdoIan Bayraktar and former EU Affairs Minister Egemen BaIII — were accused of, among other things, accepting bribes and establishing and running a criminal group.The AK Party government and then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan claimed the operation was orchestrated by the faith-based Hizmet movement, some of whose sympathizers are high-level officials working in the state bureaucracy and which intended to overthrow his government.

However, ErdoIan has not provided any evidence to prove his claim The Hizmet movement, which is inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen and known for its promotion of interfaith dialogue and the resolution of problems through peaceful means throughout the world, denies the accusations.The dozens of senior police officers who were detained in a large-scale operation which began in the early hours of July 22 in over 20 provinces had not only taken part in major graft probe operations against the government but were also involved in other critical and major terrorism operations in the country.

The suspects are accused of fraud in official documents, abuse of their authority, illegal wiretapping, illegally obtaining documents related to state security and the violation of privacy of communication. They have denied the accusations.

However, it was the graft operations which provoked the anger of the government and resulted in the launch of legal action against these police officers.ErdoIan admitted that the operation against the police officers had been carried out upon his instructions.

Speaking on a TV program, he said the government is determined to continue its fight against Hizmet. andldquoEverybody is well aware of our fight against [Hizmet].

We made the necessary appointments. We appointed new [super] judges and they will get to work soon.

They will be part of our fight against the andlsquoparallel stateand#39.andrdquoFormer AK Party deputy and Democratic Progress Party (DGP) leader Professor Idris Bal, who taught at the Police Academy between 1995-2011 before his election to Parliament, wrote in a report released in Parliament in August that if the policeand#39s respectability was damaged, citizens might attempt to assume the job of keeping the peace and criminal gangs filling the gap would be a disaster for the nation.

In what many consider an attempt to take revenge on the Hizmet movement, the AK Party government has been reworking the justice system in Turkey — shutting down certain courts, establishing new ones and quickly assigning particular prosecutors and judges to deal with certain cases — in a way which is diametrically opposed to the principles of law.In a decree issued on Jan.

21, the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) reassigned 96 judges and prosecutors, — including several dealing with critical cases and investigations — to new posts across the country. The decree was prepared by the First Chamber of the HSYK, whose membership structure was recently changed in favor of the government after the reassignment of two of its members.

This was followed by further reassignments of hundreds of other prosecutors and judges throughout the yearThe AK Party introduced penal courts of peace in an omnibus bill that was introduced at the end of June and was quickly passed by Parliament. Judges serving at these courts are sometimes referred to as andldquosuper judgesandrdquo because they have been granted a large number of powers.

However, they have been criticized for being endowed with superior powers to other courtsand#39 rulings and over investigations. The First Chamber of the HSYK has already appointed over 110 penal judges of peace across Turkey, six of whom will serve in Istanbul.

Survey reveals most Turks believe judiciary is influenced by political authoritiesA survey by Gezici Research conducted in October has revealed that an overwhelming majority of Turkish citizens do not believe they would receive a fair trial if tried in the country, with the judiciary seen to be heavily influenced by the political authorities. Most Turks also consider that an operation against some police officers who exposed serious corruption allegations incriminating senior officials in the government and the huge reshuffle in the police, judiciary and civil service are aimed at derailing the corruption investigations.

According to the survey, 70 percent of Turks said they believe the government is meddling with the judiciary, as opposed to 30 percent who believe that the Turkish judiciary is independent. When asked whether they thought they would get a fair trial, 76 percent of those polled responded negatively.

Only 24 percent of Turks believe they can get a fair trial in the Turkish justice systemThe Turkish public also does not regard the reshuffles to be routine reassignments, according to the poll. Almost 69 percent of Turks said the purpose of the reassignments was to thwart investigations into government officials and produce a verdict that would be favorable for the government.

Only 22 percent disagreed with that view, saying that the purpose was to remove those who had abused their positions.Speaking to Todayand#39s Zaman after the July 22 operations, Associate Professor AydIn Ipek, a constitutional law expert teaching at Zirve University, said the judiciary is no longer independent in Turkey.

According to Ipek, the penal courts of peace were established to punish patriotic police officers. andldquoThe judges and prosecutors who worked to save the thieves [suspects in the major corruption operation of Dec.

17] from jail have been appointed to serve at these newly established courts,andrdquo he stated.Former Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TuBITAK) Vice President Hasan Palaz has said that over 250 engineers and scientists were dismissed from the institution in March and April this year Palaz, who is also the former head of the TuBITAK-affiliated Research Center for Aanced Technologies on Informatics and Information Security (BILGEM), was fired on Feb.

21 for not obeying an order from andldquoinfluential figures to change a report as part of an investigation into a bugging device found inside the office of the prime ministerReleasing a statement via his social media accounts on March this year, Palaz said the number of unlawful and arbitrary practices within TuBITAK has increased since his dismissal. Palaz added that hundreds of personnel have been reassigned to lower posts within the institution and that many employees have been exposed to pressure and discrimination at the institution since February.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman