GeriGündem Soldiers balk at facing civil courts
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Soldiers balk at facing civil courts

Soldiers balk at facing civil courts
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ANKARA - Military officials object to new legislation that sets the rules governing the functioning of the military judiciary, saying it runs counter to the Constitution. In a statement sent to the president’s office, officials argue civilian prosecutors pursuing military cases will lead to interference by civilian forces and pave the way for politics to enter the barracks.

The military is objecting to an "unconstitutional" law under which its personnel would be tried in civilian courts rather than military ones during peacetime, press reports said Sunday.

The daily Milliyet ran the story under the headline "Politics will enter military barracks" and listed the General Staff’s objections to the controversial law, which has not yet been approved by President Abdullah Gül.

The law, passed as part of European Union reforms, has sparked conflict between the military and the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, whose deputies are pressing for its approval. The military sees a veto as the only option.

According to General Staff jurists, the legislation contradicts Article 145 of the Constitution, which sets out the rules covering the functioning of the military judiciary. The relevant provision stipulates that military courts are in charge of hearing cases about crimes committed by military personnel within the military domain.

The military says the law infringes on the inviolability of military areas and will negatively impact the chain of command of the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, reported daily Milliyet. They say civilian prosecutors opening files on "baseless" tips or forged documents will open military areas to interference by civilian forces and intelligence organizations, paving the way for politics to enter the barracks.

If the new law is put into practice, there will likely be serious clashes between the military and civilian judiciary, the military says. Chaos could emerge due to the fact that military courts will want to apply Article 145 of the Constitution while civilian court will take the new legislation as its basis in further cases.

The president has been consulting with the government, military and judiciary on the law before deciding to approve or veto it ahead of the July 10 deadline. According to commentators in Ankara, President Gül could use the right of partial veto and approve two articles of the law while sending the remaining one back to Parliament for further deliberations.

In remarks published in daily Cumhuriyet, former Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Türk said the law was against the Constitution and voiced concerns at the way it had passed in Parliament during a late-night session last month.

"Non-compliance with the rules followed in the drafting of laws is a source of criticism in itself. A draft to be prepared after taking the views of the parties concerned should have been forwarded to Parliament, but the rules were not obeyed," Türk said. "The ruling-party officials say they informed the opposition of the amendment half an hour ago, but this is not a measure that is compatible with the legal procedures... [The law] should have been subject to a healthy discussion."

According to the law, civilian courts will try members of the armed forces who are accused of crimes including threats to national security, constitutional violations, the organizing of armed groups and attempts to topple the government.

A navy colonel accused of being a member of the illegal Ergenekon network was released last week due to insufficient evidence for an investigation. Navy Col. Dursun Çiçek’s signature allegedly appeared on a document found as part of the Ergenekon probe that made headlines after daily Taraf published it last month. The document contains plans to discredit the AKP and a religious movement led by cleric Fethullah Gülen.
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