“The fact that no prosecutor has yet opened an ex officio investigation against individuals and groups, who, allegedly, to be operating in a wide spectrum of unlawfulness, from drug dealing, assassination, bribery to tender corruption, summarizes the state of judicial independence in Turkey.”

https://mailchi.mp/ozgurlukarastirmalari.com/freedom-observer-15

From Editor-in-Chief

Turkey’s political agenda is highly occupied this week as usual. No political or legal steps have yet been taken regarding the disclosure of the criminal organization leader Sedat Peker about illegal or criminal activities involving state officials, some of whom are at the ministerial level. This is the most important recent political development in Turkey, which has frustrated citizens’ expectations for the state to provide a responsible and transparent administration that adheres to the “rule of law”.
Among the other developments that have caused the Turkish public to fall in despair in the past days, two major developments stand out. One of them is the warning given by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe at its meeting on 7-9 June that it will initiate the procedure for the violation of the European Convention on Human Rights against Turkey, since the the government did not implement the decision of European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding the violation of Osman Kavala. Although this warning was made specifically on Osman Kavala case, it should not come as a surprise that behind this decision there lies Turkey’s well-known widespread human rights violations and its insistence on not complying with the ECHR rulings.
As ironic as it was, just at the time when the Council of Europe warned Turkey, the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Court of Cassation filed a closure case against the Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) in its resubmission of the indictment in the Constitutional Court for the party’s actions “against the indivisible integrity of the state”. The indictment demanded around 450 members of the party to be banned from politics. This case is not only ironic because it was brought just at the time the Council of Europe warned Turkey; it is ironic since it shows that the Turkish state elites still have not learned, despite all the experience of closing parties, that the political demands of a considerable part of the society will not disappear with the closure of political parties. Moreover, we know from previous similar cases that the Turkish authorities’ understanding of the concept of “state integrity” is not shared by the ECHR. Considering that almost all of the reasons for the HDP’s closure request are the statements of the party members, the same applies for freedom of expression.
Another disappointing development of the past week is that the fact that Turkey’s role in Afghanistan approaches its the realization stage revealed during the NATO summit held in Brussels on 14 June. In accordance with the agreement reached with the US President, Turkey will soon send troops to Afghanistan, primarily for the protection of Kabul Airport, in order to fill the gap arising from the withdrawal of US troops. It seems that our state officials are planning to drag Turkey into a quasi-war environment for the sake of the dream of becoming an “imperial” power. What kind of raison d’état that makes the government to waste the country’s resources in the “Afghanistan jungle” while its own people are falling into poverty each and every day, and to seek adventure in distant lands? What is that making the government embarking upon such an endeavor when, in fact, it is unable to cope with many chronic domestic problems? What is that making the government forging such a policy when the social and material costs of the adventure on our southern border are evident?…

Waiting for an Investigation: The case of Sedat Peker’s Allegations

Sedat Peker, who has a red notice on his name and wanted for founding an organized crime organization since last month, continues to disclose many illegal activities that he is involved in and/or has knowledge of. Peker’s allegations have not received convincing explanations from his interlocutors, and no investigation has yet been launched by the judicial authorities.
Of Peker’s several claims, the one stands out: a while ago, Peker claimed that Erkan Yıldırım, son of the former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, went to Venezuela to establish a new drug route.[1] Link: https://www.duvarenglish.com/turkish-mafia-boss-claims-former-pms-son-ex-minister-part-of-intl-drug-trafficking-scheme-news-57577 In response, Binali Yıldırım said that his son went to Venezuela to distribute Covid materials. However, it was soon discovered that there was no medical material in the customs records. Another discussion started after the Minister of Interior Soylu’s statement in the HaberTürk broadcast that a politician received a monthly salary of 10 thousand dollars by Peker’s himself. Despite the persistent questions of the journalists, Soylu did not say who this politician was, but said that he could only say this in court. In a video Peker released later, he came clean that this politician was Metin Külünk, a prominent politician and a member of the AK Party MKYK. Potentiating his claims, Peker said that he did not only send 10 thousand dollars to Mr. Külünk but also provided financial resources, beyond measure, during election periods.[2] Link: https://www.duvarenglish.com/akp-says-ready-to-correct-mistakes-in-face-of-mafia-boss-sedat-pekers-allegations-news-57745 Despite all these allegations, it should be noted that no investigation has yet been launched against the aforementioned individuals.
The fact that no prosecutor has yet opened an ex officio investigation against individuals and groups, who, allegedly, to be operating in a wide spectrum of unlawfulness, from drug dealing, assassination, bribery to tender corruption, summarizes the state of judicial independence in Turkey. On the other hand, the AK Party prefers to shy away from making these accusations to the public for a lively political discussion even though such claims leave the party in the limelight. On the contrary, it accuses opposition parties of doing business with criminal organizations. The President Erdogan, targeting the opposition parties at the AK Party’s group meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, said, “Now they have relied on criminal organizations. We are saddened to see those who insist on bringing the slanders of all sworn enemies of the nation, from FETO to PKK to organized crime groups, to the agenda of the Parliament. We have no time to waste with them, we have a lot of work to do. We can never accept that the AK Party is drawn into dirty scenarios”.[3] It should be noted that in democracies, opposition parties hold the government accountable and force it to be transparent as well as bring public issues to the political agenda. Therefore, what the government should do is not to ignore Peker’s allegations or force the judicial authorities not to take action, but to demonstrate the necessary political will for an independent investigation for the allegations.

Closure Case against HDP

The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Court of Cassation announced that it submitted the indictment to the Constitutional Court on 7 June 2021, demanding the closure of the HDP. The Constitutional Court returned the indictment since it was not clear from the indictment on which grounds HDP violates the “indivisible integrity of the state with its territory and nation”. Moreover, the Court also stated that the listing of the lawsuits and investigations brought against party members did not allow the Court to evaluate which actions caused the party to become a focal point of activities against the indivisible integrity of the state.[4]  In resubmitting the indictment to the Constitutional Court, the Office of the Chief Prosecutor also announced that a ban on politics was requested against 451 people as well as demanded measures to be taken against the financial accounts of the party.[5] In the next process, the Constitutional Court will first make its first examination regarding the acceptance of the indictment. Then, if it decides to accept the indictment, the merits of the case will be examined. The Constitutional Court can evaluate the request for injunction at every stage of the case.
In case of proceeding to the merits of the case, the party’s procedural and substantive defenses will be taken. In addition, those who are requested to be banned from politics will be able to submit their own written defenses to the Court. If the Constitutional Court decides that the party has become a focal point of separatist activities at the end of the case, it may decide to close the party permanently or deprive it of the Treasury aid, partially or completely, depending on the gravity of the actions. However, the Constitutional Court can make these decisions with a two-thirds majority (10) of the members attending the meeting. If it is decided to close the party permanently, those who caused the party to be closed due to their actions and statements will be banned from politics for five years.
Considering the current member composition of the Constitutional Court, it is understood that it is likely to obtain the necessary majority for a decision for the HDP to be closed or sanctioned. However, it is understood that the majority of the actions and statements cited as the reason for the closure in the indictment are speeches made during the ‘peace process’ and can be considered within the scope of freedom of political expression. Similar allegations were examined in the Selahattin Demirtaş (2) decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and evaluated within the scope of freedom of expression.
The closure case was welcomed by the partners of the ruling bloc. In fact, MHP leader Bahçeli said that the closure of the HDP was a debt of honor of the Constitutional Court.[6] HDP executives, on the other hand, claimed that the date of filing of the new indictment was deliberately chosen, and reminded that the party’s success in the 7 June 2015 elections caused the AKP to lose its parliamentary majority, claiming that the case was filed for revenge purposes.[7]
Along with the refiling of the case, early election speculations come to the fore. Although it is difficult to predict what effect the HDP closure case and the decision to be made will have on the election results, the fact that judicial processes are subject to election calculations severely undermines trust in the judiciary and the rule of law.

Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe Warned to Start Violation Procedure in Kavala Case

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe examined the situation regarding the implementation of the  judgment of violation against Osman Kavala at its meeting on 7-9 June 2021, within the scope of monitoring the implementation of the ECHR judgments. Recalling the fact that the ECHR found that Kavala was detained unlawfully and that the detention was aimed at silencing Kavala as a supporter of civil society, the Committee reiterated that the continuation of Kavala’s arbitrary detention through trials constituting an example of abuse of the criminal justice system, which constitutes a clear violation of the obligation to comply with the Court’s decision within the scope of Article 46/1 of the Convention and stated that this situation is unacceptable in terms of the rule of law. In case that Kavala is not released, the Council reaffirmed its determination to ensure that the Council will resort to all means at its disposal, including, where necessary, the violation procedure under Article 46 § 4 of the Convention.[8]The probability of the violation procedure against Turkey, which was used against Azerbaijan only once, is one of the most concrete indicators of the deterioration of Turkey’s human rights record.

Who raises the dollar?

Theater artist and politician Levent Üzümcü was summoned by the court to testify on the charge of speculating on dollars, with the application of the Capital Markets Board (CMB). Levent Üzümcü’s tweet is as follows: “I was called to testify at the financial branch because of a tweet I tweeted 3 years ago. The capital market thing [speaking of the Capital Markets Board] has complained to me on the ground that I’ve raised the dollar’s price by speculating. At that time, the dollar was 6-odd lira… It turned out that I was responsible for what happened to us.”[9] The Capital Markets Board is a supreme board that is responsible for ensuring the effective functioning of all capital markets in Turkey, inspecting those operating in this field, and giving the necessary permissions to those who want to operate. It undertakes a very important task in terms of its job description and functions. However, as in many institutions in Turkey for a long time, signs of corruption are also evident in the CMB. It is enough to look only at the incident that happened to Levent Üzümcü without looking at huge transactions and works. Surely, CMB should take various actions against those who commit market abuse acts. It is clear that the free market needs a set of rules at various times in order to run smoothly. This set of rules also consists of laws and decisions of supreme boards. But there is a need for something very important outside the set of rules, and thatis the equal application of the rules for all. Equality of everyone before the law is an indispensable complement to democracy and the principle of the rule of law.
During the currency shock Turkey experienced in 2018, investigations were launched against many citizens who expressed their despair, disappointment, and criticism. We mentioned this in our previous bulletins. It is a similar situation that happened to Levent Üzümcü. This and similar investigations aim to intimidate and eliminate the ability of criticizing the government which is almost the only means that people have in order to fix some things.
A very important question arises here. There is a topic that is talked about a lot by economists and even among citizens in Turkey: Interest. President Erdogan makes occasional statements on interest, although it is not within his mandate. He says that the interest rate will cause inflation. It is something we often argue that this view does not match any basic economic reality for Turkey. But here, the point that we will connect with what happened to Levent Üzümcü is important. We see a rapid rise in the dollar after every statement made by Erdogan on interest rates. In no way do we see that the CMB initiates a transaction regarding these statements, which distort all the short-term analytics of the market and thus turn into market-distorting actions. Serious sanctions are imposed on all people who use their public power to engage in market abuse, in a country with democratic standards. In Turkey, the power of public authorities is sufficient only for citizens who have very limited means.
The distorted understanding of justice in Turkey is a frequent topic discussed in our bulletins. The same thing often happens regarding this situation. Lastly, on June 1st, answering the questions of journalists close to the government, Erdoğan went beyond his plan for a while and made statements about interest rates. At the time he made this statement, the dollar-TL rate rose from around 8.50 to 8.88.[10] Neither Levent Üzümcü nor any other politician has the power to create such rapid volatility in exchange rates. But too many people living in Turkey are accused by the CMB of speculating the dollar. However, President Erdoğan often commits this crime attributed to Levent Üzümcü and other citizens. We have fallen so far below democratic standards that one is no longer surprised at certain things. I hope we do not lose this sense of surprise, too.

[1]https://www.duvarenglish.com/turkish-mafia-boss-claims-former-pms-son-ex-minister-part-of-intl-drug-trafficking-scheme-news-57577
[2]https://www.duvarenglish.com/akp-says-ready-to-correct-mistakes-in-face-of-mafia-boss-sedat-pekers-allegations-news-57745
[3]https://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/erdogandan-sedat-peker-aciklamasi-kaybedecek-zamanimiz-yok-1843029

[4] AYM, (Siyasi Parti Kapatma) E.2021/1, K.2021/1, 31/03/2021. (https://siyasipartikararlar.anayasa.gov.tr/SP/2021/1/1)
[5]https://bianet.org/english/politics/245322-closure-case-court-of-cassation-sues-the-hdp-again
[6]https://bianet.org/english/politics/240986-nationalist-party-leader-targets-hdp-again-closing-it-is-a-duty-of-honor
[7]https://twitter.com/mithatsancarr/status/1401956622667235328

[8]https://search.coe.int/cm/Pages/result_details.aspx?ObjectID=0900001680a2c10e
[9]https://twitter.com/LeventUzumcu/status/1403315691378388998?s=20

[10]https://tr.tradingview.com/chart/?symbol=FX%3AUSDTRY (The movement on June 1st, between 23.00-23.30 occurred due to Erdogan’s announcement.

Önceki İçerikThe Freedom Of Press In Turkey: 2019-2020 Report
Sonraki İçerikFreedom Observer No 16