Date posted: March 21, 2014
Despite Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s continual accusations that the faith-based Hizmet movement is plotting against him through recordings that have implicated Erdoğan and his son Bilal in bribery and corruption, the prime minister has refrained from filing any lawsuits against members of the Hizmet movement, which has raised questions from analysts.
Some legal commentators also share these questions, saying that if the Hizmet movement is such a dangerous and threatening structure, then Erdoğan should have taken action through legal proceedings. So far, there has not been a single legal complaint from Erdoğan or any prosecutor against the Hizmet movement since the breaking of the Dec. 17, 2013 corruption and bribery probe.
However, Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, the inspiration behind the Hizmet movement, has already filed a lawsuit against Erdoğan over this slanderous smear campaign and the baseless allegations that Gülen is behind the ongoing corruption scandal.
According to lawyer Ergin Cinmen, Erdoğan’s primary aim is to restructure the judiciary through a massive reshuffle of prosecutors, police chiefs and officers, as well as to enact a controversial law allowing more government control over the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). After the law was approved by President Abdullah Gül, some 600 people at the HSYK, including judges, prosecutors and inspectors, have been removed from office.
Cinmen asserted that after Erdoğan completes the process of designing the judiciary in accordance with his own interests and creating a safe atmosphere that will block all ways to judge him for the corruption allegations, he will initiate a legal process against the members of the Hizmet movement, whose result can already be foreseen. Cinmen noted that if he files a lawsuit against the Hizmet movement, no one can expect it to be fair, adding: “Thinking that the judges will be impartial during the process of judgment is impossible. The court ruling will be known from the beginning.”
He continued: “In Erdoğan’s opinion, the judiciary is still under the control of the Hizmet movement, and it has not been completely transformed into the government’s desired judiciary. That is why Erdoğan is paving the way for a government-dominated judiciary through such a massive purge. Another reason why he has not filed a lawsuit against members of the Hizmet movement is that Erdoğan plans to choose a position in accordance with the results of the March 30 local elections. It is an issue of political calculations. If his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) keeps its share of the vote in the local elections, then he may feel freer to take all sorts of measures, including a legal process, against the Hizmet movement by considering the results as support for himself and his way of governing, despite the bribery claims. But they are aware that they are faced with a legitimacy crisis, so a noticeable decline in votes for the AK Party will give the judiciary a push to take action on the bribery allegations about Erdoğan and his family.”
Another lawyer, Ekrem Demiröz, also pointed out that despite Erdoğan’s description of members of the Hizmet movement as “traitors and assassins,” he could not take any legal action against them, while he had violated the presumption of innocence in relation to Hizmet followers, whom he has continually mentioned in his remarks. Although Erdoğan has repeatedly emphasized that the sons of ministers and ministers themselves who are implicated in the corruption scandal have a legal right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, Demiröz noted that Erdoğan has never paid any attention to the same right for members of the Hizmet movement.
“Erdoğan is trying to hush up all the corruption claims by targeting the Hizmet movement in his recurring speeches, as if the Hizmet movement were responsible for the corruption scandal and illegal activity. Disclosing audio recordings [from an investigation] is against the law, but the content is more important than how they were obtained. That is why they have reshuffled so many prosecutors and judges in order not to be exposed to any accusations from the courts,” Demiröz added.
On the issue of why Erdoğan has not resorted to lawsuits so far, Demiröz stated that he should have filed a case against the Hizmet movement already, saying: “If he is calling a group a terrorist organization, then why hasn’t he used legal action against that structure for more than three months? If he is accusing the Hizmet movement of being part of a terrorist organization, how can he say, ‘I will settle old scores with the Hizmet movement in the wake of the local elections’? If there is an illegal act being committed by a group, how can he remain silent for months? But if a prime minister is meeting with the justice minister to meddle in the judiciary in order to arrange the conviction of media mogul Aydın Doğan, who was at odds with the prime minister, and he has defended this interference since then, we cannot expect him to act in accordance with the law.”
Another lawyer who spoke to Today’s Zaman on the issue, Hüseyin Ersöz, said that those who are faced with a violation of their rights or with unlawful acts have the right to demand the protection of their rights through legal processes, adding: “Despite the fact that illegal wiretaps are not considered evidence in the courts, Turkey has to face the current reality. If the prime minister thinks that he has been exposed to such violations, any criminal complaint by him, as the head of the executive body, would give rise to a more detailed investigation of the issue.”
The AK Party’s former Hatay deputy, Fuat Geçen, also stressed that the government and Erdoğan could not withstand such serious corruption accusations if they lost a considerable amount of votes in the local elections, which could led to early general elections, currently scheduled for 2015. Geçen stated that the government and Erdoğan had suffered wear and tear from the corruption allegations and that the election results would seal a situation that would put Erdoğan in difficulty before the public and legal processes.
Source: Cihan , March 20, 2014