Turkey is now hostage to the AKP

Two different courtrooms rendered simultaneous decisions ordering the release from prison of Samanyolu TV CEO Hidayet Karaca and more than 60 police officers.

The judges involved noted that there was no concrete evidence to support keeping these men behind bars any longer. But what do you suppose happened next?

The prosecutor took off as quickly as he could so that he could avoid signing off on these court decisions. But that’s not all it’s now alleged that the prosecutor warned the lawyers: “Don’t force me on this one. If I sign off on this decision, they’ll kill me.” So in the end, Karaca and the police officers remain in prison like hostages, despite court orders to release them.

This situation, which has played out before all of Turkey and the world, displays with stark clarity the chasm that we now face as a country. We’ve seen this all before government orders also hindered the legal process in the wake of the Dec. 17 and 25, 2013 corruption investigations. So really, it’s a repeat of an old scandal. We live in the era of civilian coups: Court decisions are freely ignored and the powers that be can declare that a judge’s orders amount to a “coup attempt.”

The judges who handed down the release decisions for Karaca and the police officers were removed from their positions after words of warning from the “impartial” president. They were even arrested on Thursday night. At the same time, the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) apologized for their “lateness” in dealing with the judges, despite the fact that the only ones who should be apologizing at this point are those responsible for the unjust imprisonment of these people.

Recently, the question “Do you believe you’d get a fair trial if you were being tried in court?” was posed in a survey conducted by the Gezici polling company here in Turkey. A full 74 percent replied “No.” The question “Do you believe the government, prime minister and president intervene in the justice system?” elicited a “Yes” response from 71 percent of those polled. As for this one: “Do you think President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan has become more authoritarian?” 67 percent answered “Yes.” More interestingly, some 30 percent of confirmed Justice and Development Party (AKP) voters also answered in the affirmative to this question.

Broadly speaking, some 65 percent of poll respondents said they believed there was government pressure on independent media, while some 70 percent said they believed society was polarized. At the same time, 77 percent of those asked said they did not support the proposed Turkish-style presidential system. And when it comes to tracking perceptions of illegalities, 84 percent of those polled said they believed the government was involved in corruption even 76 percent of AKP voters indicated this as well.

Some 24 percent of those polled said “Yes” when it came to the question “Do you receive public assistance or help from the state or various foundations?” Today, it is estimated that some 10 million people throughout Turkey are receiving some sort of financial assistance from AKP-linked municipalities, state organizations or certain charitable foundations. One of the new, widely used AKP arguments heard at campaign rallies these days is that this assistance will grind to a halt if the AKP is not re-elected. In fact, so fervent is their insistence on this front that the opposition has been forced to deny it.

Notably, while the AKP government has failed to open any new industrial facilities or even place importance on the foundation for such facilities over the course of its nearly 13 years in power, it has worked hard to create a mass of supporters who are dependent on it. It has fostered this dependence by allowing 10 million people to receive money without working. And now it is playing this trump card at campaign rallies.

What this really is, of course, is blackmail. The AKP tells voters, “Either vote for us, or forget about that Treasury money (funding we’ve actually stolen from your future) altogether.” It seems the government has no choice but to turn to blackmail. And so we hear ridiculous pronouncements from various government ministers who say things like, “Court decisions are not superior in weight to the will of the people.” What they refer to with “the will of the people” is actually their own power and positions. When you refuse to recognize court orders and hold people in prison despite them, it means the justice system has been taken hostage. When you are forced to threaten voters with the specter of the loss of social assistance — telling them to essentially ignore corruption if they wish to see the money keep coming in — the situation could hardly be worse. Yes, it appears Turkey as a whole has been taken hostage by the AKP.