January 13, 2011
As general elections approach, Turkey’s chronic human rights deficiencies are becoming a new epidemic. This time, it is not the purported “Deep State” that is committing them, but the institutions of the legitimate state, largely by the instructions of the AKP government.
Raids on Establishments Serving Liquor: So far, the media uncovered incidents in Kayseri, Ankara and Aydın where police raided restaurants serving alcoholic beverages, harassing the patrons, and more alarmingly taking minors attended by their parents into brief custody. The minors were immediately released to the shocked parents, with warnings that next time they will be turned over to child services.
The police superintendents and provincial governors claimed that the police was misinterpreting the authority granted by an ancient legislation, passed in 1930s that allows them to remove minors from such establishments. Yet, the legal community opines, and now the Ministry of Interior agrees, that the law has never been intended for restaurants, the main purpose of which is to serve food. As the Ankara prosecutor launched an inquiry into the raids, the Ministry of Interior claimed that the police mistakenly overstepped its authority. On Tuesday, this proved inaccurate as daily VATAN uncovered a communiqué dated 2008, where the legal department of the Turkish police issued a binding opinion that such restaurants are excluded. Police raids, apparently, are part of a campaign to intimate revelers.
The government’s distaste of alcohol is now spreading to commerce. The omnibus bill being debated in the Grand Assembly would ban internet liquor sales and has been suddenly amended to fine merchants delivering liquor and cigarettes to costumers’ residences TL100,000, or roughly Euro50,000, which would bankrupt Turkey’s large community of small shopkeepers, if violations are cited. The chilling affect on commerce should be reviewed carefully by EU.
Police Violence in Demonstrations Escalating: On Tuesday, the police used batons to stop a small gathering of members of DISK, Turkey’s second largest labor union confederation, who were demonstrating peacefully against the restoration of an historic site to be used as an auxiliary for an Istanbul university. The building had been used as an interrogation and torture center by the military after the 12th September 1980 military coup. Among those who received the tough love of the police was the chairman of the DISK, Mr. Suleyman Celebi, who maintained that the protest march was sanctioned by the governor’s office.
On Tuesday, police raided a high school in Sariyer, Istanbul roughing up three minors, who were part of a larger group protesting against exorbitant prices of food items sold in the school in the cafeteria.
“Martial Law” Declared in Istanbul University: The legal and academic communities were shocked today, when the press found out that the president of Istanbul University, one of the largest in Turkey, instructed the police to search all students, their effects and their vehicles in and AROUND the campus, without cause, for a year. The police had then applied to a lower court, which readily granted the blanket search warrant. Even the security forces serving in the PKK-infested southeast provinces were not given such sweeping powers to conduct searches. The president refused to explain his reasons, but law students are already contesting the search order in the courts.