The plan was to make a truly critical intervention while the bill was being debated in Parliament and move the specially authorized courts to non-functioning status. The plan was carried out successfully. All right, but what is the result?
Some very radical changes have been made. The government has completely eliminated the specially authorized courts. The expectation was that some changes would be made to the 250th, 251st, and 252nd Articles of the Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK), the law overseeing these courts. But the fact that these articles were made completely null and void is proof of just how radical a change has occurred. The swords were drawn between the court system, the government and Parliament, moving a deepening crisis forward. The crisis, which began on Feb. 7 when the specially authorized prosecutor called in to the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) undersecretary for questioning, appears to have come to an end with the elimination of these courts. But in fact the reality at hand is a bit different. The reality is that this state crisis is continuing. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government thinks that it has outwitted the justice system, for the moment at least, through the elimination of these courts. But the truth is that the court system has at least one, if not quite a few, counter-moves at its disposal.
The media is full of opinions these days about the changes that took place. The decision was not legally driven, but rather political. For this reason, one needs to look at the new balances within the state that arose as a result of the power struggle that led to the elimination of the specially authorized courts. The terror and coup crimes that were being dealt with in the specially authorized courts will now be taken care of in new courts. What is the difference? In the past, the prosecutor could, as a matter of principle, carry out investigations on any topic without getting permission from the state. And what replaced this general principle were exceptions to that rule, which then turned into the general principle. If there is no room for exceptions made in the law, the prosecutor will thus be forced to get permission from state superiors to carry out investigations. So, what will be left after the current coup and terror trials, which are listed in the law as exceptions, are over? What is left is the main body of the political power. Permission will be required for municipality matters, including notable corruption cases. And thus, the following up of corruption cases will become more difficult for the courts. The state thus is entrenching itself against the justice system’s ongoing corruption cases. The special privileges afforded to these investigations have been completely eliminated and have been reconnected to permission from the government.
An existing example can shed some light on the changes that will result from the elimination of the special courts. The new changes will put cases such as the ongoing match-fixing case back into the arena of normal courtrooms. What does this mean? While the specially authorized courts were able to finish up the case of someone like the Fenerbahçe club president, considered by many to be “immune” to law, in just four short months, these types of cases will now last for years and years. Even the evidence will not be able to be collected in the short amount of time mentioned above.
It is inevitable that new debates will also begin about the duties and arena of military courts. It is being asserted that current ongoing trials will not be affected.
Let us return to the question from the very beginning of this column. Has the state crisis come to an end? The courts themselves will provide the response to this intervention through the legislative and executive wings of the government. And this response will be inherent in the new investigations and court cases we see carried out. While making law, there was one actor that the government neglected. And this actor is the people of the nation. If perchance the justice system enters into a clash with the protective shield created by the government in cases wherein the conscience of the nation is at stake, then the government will truly be harmed by this. The MİT investigation continues in this direction. The prosecutors will be forced to apply to the Prime Ministry for permission. But what will happen when the topics move into the arena of the courts, and the files are spilled open for everyone to see? The protective shields brought about by this new situation apply to all potential investigations. Prosecutors and judges, if they see a crime that needs to be investigated, must absolutely find a way to put justice into action. Turkey is a country democratic enough to put this sort of power into the hands of the courts. Which means that this crisis has not come to an end. Now what awaits us are some moves on the part of the justice system.