Kader Sevinc - Smart Democracy & Smart Citizenship

Click here to download as pdf file >> Turkish News_Folder,13 Feb 2012

Kemal Kilicdaroglu’s Editorial at Washington Post

CHP Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu wrote an editorial to the influential American daily Washington Post on 6 Feb, which needs to be repeated in these lines because it happens to be so prescient as to be scary.

“Many in Washington have been debating whether Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) could be a model for the Arab Spring , as our neighbors in the Middle East aspire to get rid of totalitarian regimes and become true democracies. But the reality in Turkey makes clear that the AKP model does not hold.

On Nov. 9 I visited the Silivri prison where hundreds of journalists, publishers, military officers, academics and politicians are being held. Trials were opened in 2007 on charges that an ultranationalist underground organization had plotted for years to overthrow the government. Many of those indicted have been detained for years without trial. There has not been a single conviction to date. Justice is at stake — and, so far, has been flagrantly denied. At work is an insidious attack on the rule of law by Turkey’s governing party. These trials could have been an occasion for Turkey to achieve a much-needed catharsis for correcting past wrongs, but they have been turned into instruments to silence the opposition and suppress freedoms.

Among those being held are eight opposition members of parliament. Turkey’s high election board declared that these people were qualified to stand for elections, and all won seats in parliament. That they are incarcerated violates their rights under Turkish law as elected representatives of the people.

A universal norm of the rule of law is that one is innocent until proven guilty. Another is that evidence leads to the arrest of a suspect. In today’s Turkey, however, people are treated as guilty until proven innocent. One gets arrested; then authorities gather evidence to establish an infraction. Presumed guilt is the norm. Sadly, all opponents of the government are viewed as potential terrorists or plotters against the state.

The AKP is systematic and ruthless in its persecution of any opposition to its policies. Authoritarian pressure methods such as heavy tax fines and illegal videotaping and phone tapping are widely used to silence opponents. Even more disturbing is the AKP’s claim that such things are being done in the name of democratic progress. The latest government target is the primary vestige of our democracy, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), which I lead.

While at the Silivri center in November, I likened the conditions to those of a concentration camp and said that prosecutors and judges were not meting out justice and did not deserve to be called upholders of justice. This month, I learned that the prosecutor’s office had opened an inquiry into my comments, contending that I was “seeking to influence a fair trial” and “insulting public officials.” Never mind that not a day passes without some comment by government officials, such as the prime minister, on the process of law and justice. Clearly, an effort to single out the leader of the main opposition party ratchets up the pressures on freedom of expression. Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court penalized our party when we asked for the chief justice to recuse himself from particular cases. Our request was based on ill will, we were told when the $3,000 fine was levied, and the CHP was unnecessarily preoccupying the court’s time. It all boils down to this: In today’s Turkey, when one criticizes the justice system, one is prosecuted. When one appeals to the courts, one is penalized.

But here is why I stand behind my words: I have the right and duty to be critical of all that is wrong in my country. It is my inalienable right to point to injustices and to ask for justice. If the courts are not performing their duty, one can, and should, stand up and say so. I do not ask for forgiveness. Rather, I want my own immunity as a member of parliament to be lifted so that I can be tried in a court for all to witness the outcome. Righteousness is the ultimate immunity.

Turkey today is a country where people live in fear and are divided politically, economically and socially. Our democracy is regressing in terms of the separation of powers, basic human rights and freedoms and social development and justice. Citizens worry deeply about their future. These points are, sadly, reflected in most major international indexes, such as Human Rights Watch, which rank Turkey quite low in terms of human rights, democracy, freedoms and equality.

Our party stands for democracy, secularism, the rule of law, human rights and freedoms. We envision a progressive Turkey where citizens, regardless of their faith, ethnicity, gender or political view, are equal before the law. Building political, economic and cultural walls between people is not consistent with democracy or social justice. Only a nation at peace with itself can be a model for its neighbors. A nation plagued by multiple forms of division and polarization is doomed to failure.

Tactics such as oppression, preying on fear and restricting freedoms can help sustain a government’s rule for only so long. Never in history has a government succeeded in ruling permanently through authoritarian measures. Oppression does not endure; righteousness does. Turkey will be no exception.”

Hakan Fidan Incident and Special Criminal Courts

Before the ink dried on this article, Turkey was shaken to the roots by yet another judicial scandal. A Special Prosecutor in Istanbul ordered Mr. Hakan Fidan, the current boss of the National Intelligence Agency (MIT), two of his colleagues and two retired top MIT servants to testify as suspects in the KCK cases. MIT was accused of helping form KCK, providing valuable information to it and even serving as an intermediary between convicted PKK boss Ocalan and the terror organization’s mountain leadership at the Qandil Mountains. When Fidan and the co-suspects turned down the invitation, claiming immunity under the Civil Service Act, the 14th Special Crimes Court in Istanbul ordered their arrest.

While no civil servant or politician should be above the law, constitutional scholars agree that the court overstepped its boundaries, as similar courts had done in cases of former Chief of staff Gen Basbug, not to mention the case Kilicdaroglu referred to in his editorial to WP.

According to many observers, the arrest warrants had more to do with yet another power struggle between AKP and the Gulen Order, than actual evidence that MIT might have been implicated as charged. While the nation debated the battle between a religious sect it claims it doesn’t exist and the legitimately elected government of Turkey, Kilicdaroglu was the only one who pointed out the real problem in Fidan Incident[1]:

Turkey’s main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has slammed the government over Turkey’s specially authorized courts saying that the courts are transforming Turkey into a Nazi camp day by day.

“These courts are converting Turkey to a Nazi camp day by day, the government convinced Turkey that they were getting rid of coup institutions but they just maintain the same methods with a different image,” Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kilicdaroglu said.

The courts were transformed from the (now defunct) State Security Court (DGM) system and their roots go back to the military commissions of 1980 coup, Kilicdaroglu said, adding that the courts function as extensions of the 1980 coup institutions.

Kilicdaroglu also called on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to make a statement on the recent detention orders for four Turkish Intelligence Service (MİT) staff saying that “Turkey is in a chaos today which cannot be managed by the government.”

He called on the Erdogan administration:

Kilicdaroglu said Erdoğan did not know how to handle this crisis surrounding an Istanbul prosecutor’s order to detain Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) chief staff Hakan Fidan.
“President Abdullah Gül, the Chief of General staff and the Prime Minister, they are all involved in [this chaotic situation] and we do not know what is going on in this country. Is it an internal feud or are there real guilty people?” he said.

“To make a way out of the chaotic environment, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan must make a press statement urgently instead of keeping silent.”

Indeed, he was prescient again, Mr. Erdoğan and his fellows had no clue how to deal with the problem, and hence they resorted to their conventional weapon. Within 48 hours the Special Prosecutor was removed from the case by the order of the same court that issued the arrest warrants. The decision adds infamy to an error, because when similar prosecutors had ordered the arrests of hundreds of journalists, protesting university students, academics and other dissidents, the AKP chorus always sang the same tune. “Our hands are tied; we can’t interfere with the judicial proceedings”.

Then, AKP resorted to its second-best weapon: To pass unconstitutional legislation. To rescue Mr. Fidan, a draft will be submitted to the Grand Assembly as early as Tuesday, which specifically exempts all MIT operatives from ANY prosecution unless a prime ministerial order is given.

The solution is more alarming than the problem. It goes without saying that important public servants, in particular those in security, constabulary and the military should not be arrested unless there is a very strong evidence pointing to their culpability, but releasing an agency of state completely from judicial oversight is called impunity. It is NOT condoned in a democratic state.

Kilicdaroglu Explains How to Deal With the Arrests

Kemal Kilicdaroglu suggested the proper remedy:

“In a country where democracy and equality before law prevails, legislation for specific persons is not allowable. We must use this opportunity to address all anti-democratic legislation. We repeat our offer to the administration: Let’s abolish Article 250-252 of the Felony Court Procedures Law, let’s abolish Special Criminal Courts altogether. AKP is trying to get rid of the monster it created by circumventing the law once again. This is not the right way; let’s use this occasion to rid the country of the relic of the 1980 Coup, namely the Special Criminal Courts”.

“Erdoğan is forming his own gangs, his own gladio” lamented Kilicdaroglu.

 

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Comments

  1. Dear Kader, basically you ask the question if Tunisia’s Ben Ali regime can be a model for the Arab spring? May I translate your thoughts in this way? 🙂 Your friend Georgi

  2. 🙂 Dear Georgi, of course Ben Ali regime is not comparable but as you probably guess, I am concerned about increased authoritarian trends in Turkey and the weakening credibility of the European values.

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