ANKARA - The president approves a new law to bring certain military crimes under the jurisdiction of civilian courts and the AKP signals that steps will be taken to ease the military’s concerns. Opposition parties, however, vow to fight the legislation. ’The president’s approval was wrong... It is technically flawed and unconstitutional,’ says a CHP deputy.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, spokesman Mustafa Özyürek slammed the president, saying Gül had missed the chance to be "Turkey's president and instead he chose to be the AKP’s president.
The CHP Deputy Chairman Onur Öymen also strongly criticized President Abdullah Gül’s decision. "The president’s approval was the wrong decision. We will apply to the top court as soon as possible to annul the law, which is technically flawed and unconstitutional," he said.
Meanwhile, The Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, backed the CHP’s decision to challenge the legislation in court, but said it would not join the CHP in its efforts. "[Gül] justified the criticism that he is not objective and neutral by approving the law," said Cihan Paçacı of MHP.
President Abdullah Gül had asked the government to make additional amendments to the bill to ease the concerns of the General Staff, which objected to the legislation, saying that "politics will enter military barracks."
The law is in line with requirements for Turkey’s bid to join the European Union and Gül believed the law to be "compatible with the existing law on military courts," the president’s office said in a statement Wednesday. "However, it will be beneficial to undertake legal arrangements without delay to dispel concerns on legal guarantees and discipline of military service that might arise during its implementation," the statement said.
Tension rose in the country after legislation restricting the powers of the military courts, a long-standing EU demand, was passed in a last-minute, late-night session in Parliament during the last week of June, and mainly with votes cast by the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP.
The new regulation requires civilian courts to try members of the armed forces who are accused of crimes including threats to national security, constitutional violations, organizing armed groups and attempting to topple the government in times of peace.
Gül made a similar approval earlier on the controversial headscarf legislation when he passed the law but urged the government to smooth over some of the existing concerns.
The daily Milliyet reported Thursday that Gül first called for the government’s assurance it would make the necessary amendments to appease the military before approving the law. Speaking to private NTV, İsmail Küçükkaya of daily Akşam said there were two motives behind Gül’s approval of the law: Gül did what he had to do in a legal sense within the framework of EU accession but asked for further arrangements in a political sense.
The General Staff had concerns over some aspects of the law and conveyed its objections to the presidency's legal department. The military brass believed the law was unconstitutional and would fringe on the inviolability of military affairs, leading to rows between military and civilian prosecutors.
Opposition to fight
The CHP is now readying to apply to the Constitutional Court to annul the law. The party will convene Monday to ask for the signatures of CHP deputies to take the issue to the top court. The CHP argues that the law contradicts Article 145 of the Constitution, which sets out the rules covering the functioning of the military judiciary.
MHP parliamentary group leader Mehmet Şandır said it was revealed that the president also had some concerns about the law as it was not right and inappropriate to pass a law on such a significant issue in a last-minute parliamentary session. "It would be better for Gül to send the legislation back to Parliament," he said.
The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, said they would take the necessary steps in line with Gül’s advice.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç told reporters Thursday that if it was required, the government would bring the law back onto Parliament’s agenda at the beginning of the new legislative year.
"This arrangement was made in order to remove some hesitations and to draw the limits of civilian and military judiciary in an exact way," he said. "A number of jurists and politicians said such an arrangement has been required in Turkey for a long time."
Noting that Gül approved the law, Arınç said: "This means that the President did not consider the law to be against the Constitution. Gül also said the arrangement befitted the supremacy of law, international agreements and EU standards." Parliament went into recess July 1 and will reconvene Aug. 4 to elect a new speaker. The new legislative year will then begin after September, he said. Government spokesman Cemil Çiçek said the AKP first planned to clarify the definition of "military crime" and secondly to make arrangements in line with Gül’s decision. For honorary member of the Military Court of Appeals, Ali Fahir Kayacan, planning a coup is not a matter of prosecution by the military judiciary. It falls under the authorization of the civilian judiciary.