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Waves of arrests and police searches

The latest wave of arrest and police searches as part of the Ergenekon crime gang case caused a human and legal catastrophe. Since the bank accounts of the Association for Supporting Contemporary Living, or ÇYDD, were blocked, a total of 5,500 students cannot be paid their scholarships. This figure will rise in time.

The administrators of the association, which was established to provide education to the children of financially disabled, are under arrest.

They all are very respectable and successful scientists who dedicated their lives to education. Society is thankful to them, but they are being treated like "suspects" in the Ergenekon case

On the other hand, patients of Başkent University President Mehmet Haberal, who is among the Ergenekon detainees and is a medical doctor, are hopelessly waiting in the hospital. If he is able to do organ transplants, they will all survive.

A beautiful small girl keeps asking, "I want to get well and go back to school. He had promised me, why is he not coming?"

Search warrant should be clear
The European Court of Human Rights mandates tight search standards. First of all, a search warrant should clearly state all documents and items that could be confiscated and solid evidence and information based on reasonable doubt should be clearly noted. Search and confiscation should be in parallel with the desired result. For instance, items not used for criminal intent cannot be confiscated.

If the person who is subjected to a police search is not accused of anything, police should be more careful during the search and confiscation process. The reason for the search and incidents raising reasonable doubt should be stated in detail in the warrant. The European court’s criteria are binding over national laws, according to Article 90 of the Constitution.

But what do we see in the search warrant issued by the 13th High Criminal Court? For once, we see in the search warrant a statement, "In the light of interrogations, it has been understood clearly that the following acts were committed," which is not in accord with the "innocent until proven guilty" principle.

The document ends with another statement, "Search and confiscation of the evidence to be found in relation with the Ergenekon armed terror organization are needed," following the claims in the indictment being stated.

But the "thought" is not enough. Solid incident and information is needed to prove the thought. Besides, the search warrant was issued for "collecting evidence." But police officers are collecting everything and dumping them into a sack to take back to the office without considering if the findings are evidence. For instance, "The Speech" by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and concert tickets for a Suna Kan recital are evidence for what kind of a crime?

The Law of Criminal Procedure, or CMK, seeks two conditions for detention: The first is that it should be necessary for the sake of the interrogation. In other words, look to see if it is possible to achieve this without limiting individual freedom. The second is the existence of signs that the person committed such crime. The European court first examines if the detention is in line with national laws and then looks if national laws and implementations are in accord with the court’s criteria.

Both the CMK and the European court seek some certain amount of solid evidence based on reasonable doubt for the arrest. The European court applies the reasonable doubt criterion to see if it is convincing enough and if prosecutors have adequate objective information and incidents that the crime is really committed.

Detention for interrogation is both against national laws and the European court criteria.

What reasonable doubt?
It is difficult to say that all of the above are met in the 12th wave of Ergenekon arrests. For instance, for what kind of a reasonable doubt and solid evidence the three-day detention of Tijen Mergen or Ferhat Şenatalar was based on?

The biggest threat for a state is the violation of individual rights and freedoms for arbitrary reasons and the public’s irresponsiveness and common understanding "this happens to all." We should not allow this.

* Rıza Türmen is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this piece was published yesterday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.