Turkey’s High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) held an emergency meeting Monday over violation of jurisdiction by two judges in cases concerning high profile criminal suspects in the “parallel state” probe and ruled to suspend the judges from their posts.
On April 20, the lawyers of 63 suspects involved in several cases tied to the “parallel state” probe submitted petitions to 29th Penal Court of First Instance for the release of the suspects despite the fact that the court did not have the authority to make such a decision regarding the suspects.
Upon the breach of jurisdiction over the weekend, HSYK decided to authorize two chief inspectors to investigate the two judges - Metin Ozcelik and Mustafa Baser , but the two judges protested the investigation by locking the doors of their offices at the courthouse to prevent the investigation from proceeding.
HSYK said that the judges “consciously exceeded their authority.”
In an interview with local media, Istanbul Public Prosecutor Mehmet Demir said that, “the incident on Saturday night completely had a purpose. Nobody can try to twist or bend the laws to benefit their own partisans. The incident seems as it is an organised action and misconduct to say the least. The judges must stand trial.”
The prosecutor was referring to the Gulen Movement and its adherents who are alleged to have formed a strong inner circle in country’s critical institutions such as the judiciary, police force and bureaucracy in order to manipulate them in their favor.
The chain of events occurred in between courts of judicial system that evolved over the week follows that 29th Penal Court of First Instance Judge Ozcelik had accepted the petition to release the suspects without having any authority to do so and of demanding the case files of suspects from Penal Court of Peace be transferred to him. He is also said to have asked the judges of Penal Court of Peace to provide a defense on suspect’s recusation requests on April 21.
The judges at Penal Court of Peace declined the request of Ozcelik and sent him a letter from the Ministry of Justice reading “Penal Courts of Peace has no jurisdiction over Penal Courts of First Instance ,” and also demanded petitions signed by the suspects requesting recusation.
However, Ozcelik did not respond to the request of the Penal Court of First Instance judges and ruled for recusation of all Penal Court of Peace judges posted at Istanbul’s main courthouse. In addition, he sent letters demanding the release of the suspects to 32nd Penal Court of First Instance and judge Baser there ruled for the release of all suspects on the night of April 25.
In response, the Istanbul 10th Penal Court of Peace ruled the decisions taken by the 29th and 32th Penal Court of First Instance to be against the methods of country’s judicial system and unlawful, declaring the decision of the courts void and for the suspects to remain in custody.
Following the incident, Turkey’s Minister of Justice Kenan Ipek stated, “None of the officials or anyone else can exercise authority that is not based on the Constitution. The recent development is an example of attempting to cause legal chaos in the country through the hands of courts that have no authority or are off duty.”
In comments providing further information on the case, Istanbul Public Prosecutor Mehmet Demir drew a difference between Penal Courts of First Instance and Penal Courts of Peace, explaining that Penal Court of Peace were established last year to carry out requests made by prosecution bodies.
“If in an investigation or prosecution demands the arrest or release of a suspect, the courts fulfill these requests. And, in the case of a presence of a recusation request, Penal Courts of First Instance can only make a decision regarding one Penal Court of Peace judge, not the entire set of judges of the courts. Penal Courts of First Instance judges have no authority to reject the ruling of a Penal Court of Peace judge. Even if they demand to carry out such action, they would have to first notify the HSYK and request another Penal Court of Peace judge,” he stated.
The Gulen Movement which was referred by prosecutor Demir earlier in the article for involvement in the breach, is led by self-exiled Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen who is based in US, and denies all the allegations made against it.
Alleged members of the movement have been accused in several different cases that are being investigated under the “parallel state” probe. Some of the cases include espionage, illegal wiretapping of top government officials, attempting to overthrow the government through a judicial coup, forming a criminal organisation, forgery, and the leaking of critical information.
In a separate case, HSYK also ruled to suspend judge Habil Kahraman in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa for releasing three police officers that were arrested over illegal wiretapping charges as part of the “parallel state” investigation.