12 Haziran 2009
Turkey is a strange country with rather odd sayings: "He tells the truth at the police station but errs in court" is one of these. This saying indeed reflects the communal psychology of the country from the troublesome 1960s through the 1990s. This saying, indeed, as well testifies to the bitter "tradition" of establishing the evidence of a crime through "interrogating" the "potential suspects" rather than finding the criminals using the evidence of a crime. There have been many odd jokes about how the interrogation teams of any country can make anyone confess to anything in a short period of time Ğ one going to the extreme of an elephant being "sufficiently motivated" to testify he was the much-sought-after criminal of an eastern country.
These jokes, indeed, reflect the deep wounds inflicted on the communal psychology by some "extremely talented" security personnel who were applying all kinds of systematic torture during interrogations. Put aside an elephant confessing to being a criminal; one could confess to anything under such "persuasive interrogations." Once placed in the middle of such an ordeal, anyone would confess to have committed any crime Ğ even to a series of crimes committed in the same time span in various parts of the country in a "miraculous way." Otherwise, after being "interrogated" through various chambers equipped with state of the art "high technology," a suspected criminal might be found dead on a bench in a park.
Nowadays, apart from the mafia and that kind of soap opera Ğ all cultivating a "culture of violence" in Turkish society Ğ or stories of heavenly figures helping people extricate themselves from worldly problems, there are as well some "very serious" newspaper reports or news bulletins "enlightening" the nation about how a bunch of geriatric generals, officers and academics collaborated with mafia figures and some common criminals and were about to topple the elected government of the country with some used rocket launchers (that cannot be used again), some obsolete hand grenades or several thousand bullets of different calibers. Interesting enough, those "arms caches" were found buried in some current or former military zones, firing grounds or at cemeteries but somehow they were in such good shape (without oil or mud on them) as if they were buried just a few hours ago.
Media-judges, summary executions
Worst, perhaps because of the fact that most of the "suspected criminals" in this latest episode of the "Great Turkish Justice" novel are geriatrics or "important" or "formerly important" people, rather than getting their confessions through "interrogation" at police stations or in detention houses, they are being detained and evidence of the crimes they might have committed are looked for later in their houses or work places. Besides, through summary executions on the front pages or on main news bulletins of allegiant media, not only are the suspected crimes are being "verified" and the "criminals" sentenced but the "sentences" delivered by the media-judges were put into implementation as well. It can be argued that this Ergenekon soap opera is nothing less than a systematic effort to "refresh" the memories of our recent past and "help" the nation think once again about whether coups were products of the chaotic atmosphere with economic difficulties, anarchy and a rampant sense of insecurity or the chaotic atmosphere itself was created at those times as well with the aim and intention of plotting a coup.
Indeed, I still feel the pain of, being compelled by my fear of police, in 1980 burning most books in my library in the small toilet of my flat, remembering how terribly intellectuals possessing "dangerous books" were treated during the interim rule in 1971. This is systematic fear-mongering.
And the political authority, which appears not so interested in facilitating the judicial process against the Turkish leg of the Lighthouse e.V. Islamist charity fund sham has become itself the "prosecutor" of the Ergenekon trial, which marked yesterday its 100th session while scores are still waiting in prison or in hospital beds to be officially accused or indicted. But, we have to be confident. As it is implied in the "Every night has its dawn" saying, whatever the difficulties might be, there will be an end to them and fresh hope will emerge again.
11 Haziran 2009
The European Union has started sending some strong messages to Ankara that the fall evaluation report may contain unpleasant sentences and that Turkey has limited time to take "concrete reform steps" to improve the situation. Despite the not-so-promising stance of some EU countries headed by Angela Merkel from Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy from France, Turkey has Italy, Britain, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic, Poland and many other "friends" in the EU who will not endorse such a drastic development.
The Greek Cypriot leadership was initially talking about using its veto power against Turkey should Ankara not comply with its 2006 pledge of opening its ports and airports to southern Cyprus Ğ a move that would mean recognition of the Greek Cypriot state by Ankara as the "sole legitimate government" on the eastern Mediterranean island, thus abandoning the Turkish Cypriot state and people. Now, the Demetris Christofias administration is stressing that it would not use its veto power but that it expects its EU allies to use their leverage on Ankara to comply with its obligations.
The Cyprus condition attached to the EU process of Turkey, unfortunately, is a direct product of the hypocritical political mentality of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government. Though the government was aware that it cannot live up to such a pledge, for the sake of getting a negotiation date and later for securing the actual start of accession talks, it pledged the EU that it would sign and put into force an additional protocol to the 1964 Association Agreement and thus enhance the scope of the customs union deal to cover all new members of the EU, including the Greek Cypriots. It is not an excuse now to claim that since the EU did not lift the isolation of Turkish Cypriots in contravention to its 2004 pledges or its failure to put into force the April 29, 2004 Green Line, financial assistance and direct trade regulations, Turkey would not agree to open its ports and airports to the Greek Cypriots. Though I very much appreciate that Turkish ports are not opened to Greek Cypriots, it is obvious that the AKP government has deceived the EU.
Furthermore, the negotiations framework document that Turkey has accepted underlines the need for Turkey to "normalize" relations with all EU countries. Since Turkey does not have "normal relations" with only the Greek-Cypriot run Cyprus Republic, and no other EU country, the obligation Turkey has undertaken by accepting the negotiations framework is obvious. Can Turkey undertake such a move by the end of this summer before the EU bureaucrats complete writing the evaluation paper on Turkey?
Can Turkey open Halki seminary?
Reports from Brussels indicate that the EU might be willing to "postpone" a possible hurdle over Cyprus, but at a price. The EU is telling Ankara, rather wisely, that the Turkey-EU process cannot be simplified to only the Cyprus problem and issues related to Cyprus, but indeed the backbone of the process must be Turkey’s progress toward acquiring EU norms and values in democracy, living standards, economy and all other fields, including minority rights. For example, Enlargement Commissioner Ollie Rehn has reportedly, and very rightly, implied at a meeting with a group of Turkish journalists that if Turkey undertakes some concrete reform moves, for example agreeing to the reopening of the Greek Orthodox Halki Seminary, the country’s "failure" in "abiding with its obligations" regarding Cyprus might not be focused on as heavily by the EU Council this year. But, will the conservative establishment, including the military, agree to reopening Halki?
Can Turkey avoid a possible nightmare in its EU bid by undertaking some serious reforms over the next few months? Very unlikely, particularly in view of the fact that after July, Parliament will be on summer recess for two months.
Can the Cyprus talks progress fast enough to avert a collision in Turkey’s EU process by this fall? So far the talks are not progressing well, yet expectations are increasing that the "give-and-take" phase of the talks that are expected to start toward the end of July may produce a new peace plan, perhaps shorter than the failed 2004 blueprint.
Can the UN Security Council take some drastic action regarding the UN force in Cyprus in December and force Greek Cypriots to a compromise power sharing deal? It appears to be in the cards, but will the Russians and the French agree to it?
It will definitely be an exciting fall.
10 Haziran 2009
Talking with an eminent journalist, the chief judge of the Constitutional Court has reportedly asked, "What’s going on regarding constitutional amendments?" The chief judge was apparently not expecting the journalist to answer the question as he himself answered it by saying, "As much as the content of a constitutional amendment, how an amendment is made is very important." A short question and a short answer, but the dialogue summarized the difficulties Turkey has been facing in undertaking a serious constitutional reform drive. While it is quite normal for parties to have different priorities and each may expect inclusion of some different demands in a constitutional package, there is a consensus on the need for a constitutional reform. Besides the parliamentary parties that are supportive of a constitutional reform, most of the parties that are not represented in Parliament, the academia, NGOs and intellectuals of the society subscribe to the idea that Turkey badly needs to reform its Constitution "with a democratic mindset" even if it may not be able to write a totally new national charter.
The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, prefers for some obvious reasons to include articles that would make it almost impossible for the Constitutional Court to close political parties or to change the structure of the court and the election procedures of the top judges in a manner to "control" the high court. But the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, prefers to start reforms by limiting the scope or by totally abrogating the constitutional article, providing parliamentarians almost across the board judicial immunity. The Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, may support both the AKP’s and the CHP’s position, provided the constitutional amendment package did not include proposals that might compromise the "national and territorial integrity" of Turkey. That is, the MHP is against "Kurdish reforms," but the CHP appears ready to at least consider them though its support for such a drive might be rather limited at the end of the day.
Still, it might not be so difficult to make some radical changes and eradicate some important anti-democratic elements in the Constitution or other laws. This can occur if and when the AKP realizes that its ability to undertake any reform without collaboration of at least one of the parliamentary opposition parties was destroyed with last year’s Constitutional Court’s closure case ruling. The AKP narrowly escaped closure, but the court condemned it with a 10-1 vote as the focus of anti-secular activities. When the AKP realizes its incapability and replaces its much-criticized majoritarian approach with a constructive "engagement of the others" understanding, a new highway for speedy reform might be opened.
Of course, the natural platform for any such drive must be the Parliament, and Speaker Köksal Toptan should be ready to play a major role as an "above parties" and "respectable" veteran politician capable of forging a "working group" comprised of not only parliamentary parties, but also representatives of parties outside Parliament and at least some of the most prominent civil society establishments, including those of the labor, employers and of course the academia.
Such a working group must be open to suggestions from all groups and individuals who would like to make contributions. Eventually, before it is finalized and submitted to Speaker Toptan to launch the legislative process on, the working group’s product of intensive labor should be offered for debate among the politicians, academia and through the media in the society. Thus, at the end of the day, Parliament will debate and vote on a text that reflects the "reconciled expectations" in the country, rather than obsessive evaluations of a compulsive and majoritarian political understanding.
Excluding the first four "cannot be amended and amendment of them cannot be suggested" articles of the current Constitution, the entire text might be rewritten with a democratic understanding. Turkey may finally leave the military-scissored Constitution that, despite all the improvements made in it since it was enacted in a 1982 national plebiscite, continues to remain a thorn for Turkish democracy because of the anti-democratic mentality of its writers embodied in its spirit.
Can Turkey do this? Sure it can, provided the AKP has the political will and courage to "compromise with others."
9 Haziran 2009
Politization of a criminal case may produce some awkward results, could turn into a character assassination and definitely cannot serve to the cause of justice. If and when people implicated in a criminal investigation are subjected to summary execution on the front pages of newspapers or on TV screens, it becomes all the more difficult to talk about respect to the supremacy of law in that country.
For a long time, as if newspaper columns can serve in the place of courtrooms or journalists and columnists can replace the judges, prosecutors and defense advocates, the "Ergenekon case" (referring to the alleged Ergenekon organization as a terrorist gang was prohibited by court decision) has continued in the media. While some of the several hundred people implicated in the alleged "plot to destabilize the country and trigger a military takeover" crime were officially charged, thousands of pages long indictments brought against them and they were brought in front of a court. Many people are still behind bars without an official charge against them and God knows when the prosecutors will complete writing an indictment against them. Several of the people implicated or officially charged in the case have lost their health, not necessarily because of bad prison conditions but most probably because of depression and complications related to their old age. One person died of cancer and still we have no idea when there will be an end to all this practice of gross violation of almost all norms of justice.
For many people, the Ergenekon case was indeed a revanchist campaign to take revenge for the February 28, 1997 process (in which the first-ever Islamist Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan was forced to step down), or to avenge the closure case brought against the AKP (a process from which the AKP narrowly escaped closure but was condemned by the High Court with a 10-1 decision as focus of anti-secular activities) or to reciprocate the Lighthouse e.V. Islamist charity fund fraud case described by a German court as the worst-ever fraud case in Germany in recent times, but the real criminals of which were in Turkey.Unlike the Ergenekon summary execution in the Islamist and allegiant media in Turkey, however, the Lighthouse case made headlines in the media only after official charges were brought in Germany against a group of Nationalist View people having some degree of collaboration with some very important people in Turkish government or bureaucracy and even in doing so no one ever attempted to summary execution. The people that stood trial in Germany were sentenced by a court that said the people it sentenced were people of secondary importance and that the real culprits were in Turkey. In the mean time, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government applied an unprecedented pressure on the media that refused to enter into allegiance with the government and continued reporting on the Lighthouse case or lack of serious handling of the case in Turkey.
Although through the judicial cooperation mechanism the documents and the court verdict on the Lighthouse e.V. Islamist charity fund fraud case were sent to Turkey by Germany, no serious action was taken or a full-fledged probe was launched with the claim that the dossier needed to be translated into Turkish. A second file was sent by Germany, this time after it was translated into Turkish, but the Turkish Justice Ministry tried to stall it as well, first with claims that it needed to be translated into Turkish, then admitting that it was indeed Turkish but after an evaluation it would be sent to the court.
Stalling could not help, eventually, and last week a Turkish court finally issued a very interesting order placing legal restrictions on the use of property belonging to 18 people implicated in the Lighthouse sham, including the head of the Turkish television watchdog, or RTÜK. Even though RTÜK chief Zahit Akman was not officially charged, that decision of the court implicitly made him a "suspect" in the Turkish version of the Lighthouse case.
Akman is an old time friend. I have known him as an honest and hard working TV administrator. But, what I think of him is totally irrelevant. He was elected to that position by Parliament. His position requires him to be "above politics" and definitely to stay away from controversial deals. This is not a political crime, though many people would like to consider it as such. This is a fraud case and the RTÜK chief is implicated in it officially. At least for the sake of not to be a burden on his political mentor, be he the premier or the president, Akman is required to step down even if he might not be guilty. He indeed is too late in stepping down.
8 Haziran 2009
The worry is buried deep in the back of the brains of many patriots and naturally of nationalists in Turkey. Can democratization and resolving ethnic, cultural and indeed regional problems in Turkey eventually lead to the disintegration of the country? If, for the sake of satisfying some cultural expectations of some people with "different" ethnic or cultural background, Turkey agrees to compromise the "national integrity" concept, can Turkey manage to maintain its "territorial integrity"?
Turkey’s top general, Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ, was speaking to a group of reporters in Washington last week. The top general was there for the annual meeting of the Turkish-American associations, an event that brings together every year some top civilian and military executives, as well as leading businessmen from Turkey with their American counterparts. Stressing that Yugoslavia was divided into seven new republics following a change in its unitary system of state, Başbuğ said Turkey's "national integrity" could not be changed to resolve the Kurdish problem.
While what we may define as the "Yugoslavia syndrome" or "disintegration phobia" has always been buried deep in the back of the brain of many Turks, this was the first time a top general was making a direct reference and warning Turks that if, like the former Yugoslavia, the country compromised its "national integrity," it may not be able to maintain its "territorial integrity."
Naturally no one can say for sure whether Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will discuss the issue with his Serbian counterpart, Mirko Cvetkovic, later this month if the two, as expected, meet on the sidelines of a ceremony marking the inauguration of the new Acropolis museum. We do not know either whether Erdoğan discussed the issue with Serbian President Boris Tadic when they met last week during a meeting in Kishinev, Moldova, of the heads of states of the Cooperation Process in Southeastern Europe. But perhaps it is high time for the political authority of Turkey to try to learn how the process of disintegration started in the former Yugoslavia after the death of the legendary Joseph Broz Tito; how ethnic groups who lived together in great harmony became so fierce enemies; and how neighbors mercilessly butchered their neighbors with different ethnic or religious backgrounds.
Perhaps rather than talking with some ambivalent rhetoric devoid of any noteworthy preparation that promises a resolution to each and every domestic and foreign problem of the country Ğ be it constitutional reforms; the Southeast, or Kurdish issue; the Alevi complaints; the Halki seminary and other problems of the Christian minorities; the Armenian problem; or the Cyprus problem Ğ and landing each time any such initiative in a deadlock because what steps ought to be taken were not calculated well beforehand, the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government must give up this ambivalent mind-set, engage in pluralistic preparation through engaging not only the political opposition but the civilian and military bureaucracy as well and come up with a tangible national consensus that can afford bitter resolutions for the country’s bitter problems without hurting its national integrity.
There is a rather interesting phenomenon in today’s Turkey. While it is rather rare to see a national consensus on any major issue in this country, today there is a rather interesting and strong national consensus on a variety of issues, including the need to make comprehensive democratic amendments in the Constitution and take some radical moves with the aim of resolving the Kurdish problem and bringing an end to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, separatist terrorism problem. Despite the established consensus on all these important areas, however, naturally there are different priorities, preferences and opposing perceptions that are required to be eradicated through a comprehensive dialogue before any action can be taken.
Whose responsibility is it to launch such a dialogue? Can we expect such an initiative from the opposition, the NGOs, universities, the judiciary or the military? Naturally, the government must take the lead with an inclusive and firm understanding of the "national red lines" including "national integrity" rather than burying itself in a majoritarianist obsession and wasting time and energy about whether it is impudent to use the AKP abbreviation when referring the ruling party.
6 Haziran 2009
The tall, angry, bald man appears to be frustrated with the refusal of some people, not necessarily all of them critical of his Justice and Development Party, or the AKP, who refuse to use the official "AK Party" abbreviation and instead "insist" on referring to the party as the "AKP." "It is impudent to refer to our party as the AKP," the tall, angry, bald man told a recent news conference and reiterated that everyone "must use" the official "AK Party" abbreviation. Why is the prime minister so angry about the use of the AKP abbreviation? What is in an abbreviation? Indeed, it is the established tradition in Turkey and elsewhere to abbreviate the name of an organization or a party using the first characters of its name. The Republican People’s Party, for example, is simply referred to as the CHP, an abbreviation composed of the first characters of the party’s Turkish name.
Similarly, the Nationalist Movement Party is referred to as the MHP, the Democrat Party is referred to as the DP, and the Felicity Party is referred to as the SP. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, for example, is abbreviated as NATO, while the United States of America is often referred to as the U.S.A. or just the U.S. The abbreviation of the name of parties, organizations or even countries along the lines of established traditions cannot of course imply any sort of impudent behavior toward them.
Abbreviations are not products of impudence, but an effort to make references shorter and easier. But, why is the tall, angry, bald man, or the sultan-aspiring premier of Turkey, so angry with those using the "AKP" abbreviation in referring to his ruling party and not with the "official" AK Party acronym he preferred?
One major reason is the obsession with semantics. While AKP is nothing further than an abbreviation, very much like the CHP, MHP, DP, NATO or the U.S.A., with no further meaning that what it is intended to refer to with the use of it, the word "AK" has quite an important meaning in Turkish. More than that, the word has a very strong connotation in Islam. The word "AK" literally means clear or white in Turkish, but it has some very strong connotations such as being wise, respectful, clean, correct, just or even divine. Thus, rather than a simple AKP reference, the premier insists that people must use the "AK Party" acronym (obviously it is not an abbreviation) in referring to his party.
That is, the premier is, on one hand, refuting those who say his party is an "Islamist" one by claiming that his party is a "conservative democrat" party. One that is "more secular" than any other party in the country even though it was condemned and fined by the Constitutional Court with a 10-to-1 verdict as a focus of anti-secular activities. On the other hand, he insists that in referring to his party people must use the "AK Party" acronym, which has a rather strong religious connotation, in the hopes that by using a word that implies cleanliness, correctness and such he may give a clean image to his party.
A poor joke
What the prime minister said was very much like a joke, but a very bad one.
Even if we may wish to forget allegations against many of his ministers and deputies in addition to many allegations on which no judicial process can be launched because of his parliamentary judicial immunity, there are scores of court verdicts against Erdoğan himself ridiculing that aspiration for a clean image.
With what magic wand did some municipal clerks and some contractors doing business with the Istanbul municipality join the group of the richest Turks while the tall, angry and bald man was serving as the Istanbul mayor? Or, what about the success stories of the former finance minister’s son and daughter? Or, what about the shipping and jewelry trading successes of some people carrying the Erdoğan surname? What about the corruption claims that forced out two top aides of the premier last year from party administration?
A very long list of allegations can be composed; though we have to underline no one can be considered guilty unless convicted by a judge. The premier, however, must understand that accusing people of impudence just because they refuse to accept his dictate and instead preferring to use a traditional abbreviation in referring to his party is nothing but impudence itself.
Yes, in backward societies people may attempt to silence others by shouting louder or by challenging to use his physical power (in this case government power as demonstrated by the Finance Ministry attacks on the Doğan Media Group, to which this paper belongs) against them, but in a civilized society such attitudes cannot go further than becoming laughing stock.
5 Haziran 2009
Parliament has closed down yet another chapter of the contentious legislation for the cleaning of the Turkish-Syrian border areas from land mines, approving a government-sponsored text after a 13-hour-long marathon debate. Now, shortly after President Abdullah Gül signs into law the new legislation it will not be a surprise to see the main opposition CHP and the MHP collecting the required 110 signatures among parliamentarians and go to the Constitutional Court with a demand for the annulment of the controversial bill on grounds that under a "clean and operate deal" it allowed the government to lease the border areas for up to 44 years to domestic or foreign companies and thus endangering national security as well as Turkey’s relations with neighboring countries, particularly Syria. While the prime minister and his AKP insisted not to understand criticisms from the parliamentary and non-parliamentary criticisms against the bill and tried to portray the opposition as a xenophobic or anti-Semitic attempt, the issue at the heart of the problem was very serious. All political groups in, as well as out, of Parliament were in a rare consensus on the clearing of the land mines not only in the border areas with Syria but elsewhere on Turkish territory as well.
Yet, clearing the land mines under a "clear and operate" deal, a practice that not a single country anywhere in the world has so far tried, and giving that company the right to use the land cleared of land mines for up to 44 years could pose some serious security threats to Turkey, Syria and other countries in the region, such as Iran.
Because a company that can clear land mines must have some degree of military capability even if it is not a concealed state agency. Put aside the Israelis who have problems with all countries of the region and perhaps would make Damascus angry to see them right on their border on Turkish territory for up to a 44-year-long period, would the nationality of any non-Turkish company make any difference regarding the security risk posed as long as it was non-Turkish and would operate a territory as big as the total arable land of the island of Cyprus? The first round of debates collapsed in Parliament because of such concerns and when the government called back to draft for a "re-evaluation" it was hoped that it realized the grave mistake it was attempting to undertake and would improve the text. However, it was apparently just an attempt to buy some time, reinforce pressure on the AKP deputies and make sure that they would not join the opposition and kill the draft reintroduced this week as if the text was improved.
Deception in action
Indeed, what was done was to add two paragraphs in front of the "clear and operate" paragraph of article two of the draft and introduce two other options, one giving the Defense Ministry the right to "invite" a national or international agency or company without applying the rules of the state tender law and clear the area of land mines at a price. The other option was empowering the Finance Ministry to invite a tender, the terms and conditions of which would be established by the Finance Ministry in cooperation with the Defense Ministry and the Turkish Armed Forces, for the clearing of the land mines, again at a price.
Naturally, if the overall cost of clearing land mines in the border areas with Syria is to be around 250 and 600 million euros or less and if there is such a high aversion in Parliament as well as among the Turkish people to the idea of "clear and operate" scheme, why the government insisted on having the "clear and operate" scheme as a third option in the bill?
Particularly, at a time when despite repeated demands for clarification from the opposition parties speakers and ministers of the AKP government turned a deaf ear, whether it was correct that after the Davos theatrical show Erdoğan dispatched an emissary to Israel on a fence mending mission and the bill on the clearing of landmines in border areas with Syria came immediately after such a trip, created some serious doubts leading the opposition to accuse the government of treason. Furthermore, is it not worrisome that the just legislated bill stresses that even if the border area was cleared of mines by the Defense Ministry or by the Finance Ministry through a tender and the third "clear and operate" option was not applied ownership of the cleared areas will be "transferred" to the Finance Ministry, the ministry that is also in charge of privatization? Legislation of the bill was just closure of one more episode in this clearing of land mines story. More will come.
4 Haziran 2009
Perhaps Turkey should seriously consider changing the name of the Justice Ministry. We may call it, for example, the Ministry of Apology. Or, if you like, we may name it the Ministry of Confession. Or, we may just try to give credit to the "Late justice is itself injustice" saying, take into account the confession and the apology of the new minister and rename it the Injustice Ministry. Yes, I am making a joke, but a bitter one that unfortunately is not so farfetched or so magniloquent because of the unfortunate but yet burlesque realities of this country. I definitely have no intention of talking about how one can buy justice and land myself in court under Penal Code’s contentious Article 301 on charges of insulting the Turkish judiciary. For the same "egoistic" reason, nor will I talk about how useful it might be to have some strong political or financial backing in escaping from some trivial charges. Oh my God, how difficult it is sometimes to avoid coming under Article 301 and yet "freely" express opinions that might not be appreciated by the government or corporate Turkey. There is such a vast freedom of expression in this beautiful, tolerant, shiny country, which hopefully will one day, perhaps on a Feb. 30, join the European club of democracies that while trying to move around the constitutional, legal or judicial minefields one feels like a belly dancer (no insult to belly dancers intended).
Naturally, I would like to talk about a Turkey where there is no political clout over the judiciary and indeed there is independence of justice; where the political authority is not meddling in justice and bending laws to suit its political agenda; where there is supremacy of law and everyone is equal in front of the law; where all the inmates in our prisons are convicts and there is no one waiting for months, sometimes well over one year, to see accusations brought against them in an indictment; where people are not shot in the back by security forces on grounds they did not hear an order to halt and those who shot an 19-year-old boy in the back of his head or those security personnel who wrote a false report on the case to "protect" their colleague are sentenced adequately; where ethnic, cultural, religious or political minorities are not perceived as potential risk for national security but as precious gems of this nation and where people are not persecuted, oppressed and even tortured just because they criticized the political authority or defended opinions not so compatible with the political authority or the established perceptions of society.
Do we have such a Turkey? Yes, there are relative improvements, but unfortunately not. It was great to see last year the justice minister apologizing to the family and friends of a young man tortured to death under detention after he was picked up while sitting on a bench in a park, but is it not better to really enforce the "no tolerance to torture" strategy of the government? It is great seeing the new justice minister confessing in front of cameras that while the overall capacity of Turkish prisons was 103,000 inmates, currently there were 106,000 inmates and that 60 percent of those inmates were detained people, many of them not yet officially charged and an indictment brought against them. But, to what purpose can such a confession serve if what the justice minister did was nothing more than disclosing some bitter statistical data and as if he were an opposition politician he had no idea or plans to make a correction to this incredibly bad situation for the justice system in the country.
A while ago the Justice Ministry punished a female judge who sentenced Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to a fine on grounds that she was late in writing the reasoning of the verdict. I have no intention defending a judge who was late writing reasoning of a verdict the court she was presiding made or have no intention at all to say that she was punished because she imposed a fine on the premier. But, I just cannot understand why the same Justice Ministry is not doing anything at all against, for example, a Sivas prosecutor who could not write an indictment against four university students detained almost a year ago after they organized an "anti-American" caricature exhibition or why the Ergenekon prosecutors have not completed writing an indictment against scores of academics, former bureaucrats, university professors, retired officers and some criminals, some of whom have been under detention almost a year. If this country’s prisons are full of people who have not yet been declared "guilty" by our courts, is not there a mistake somewhere? Is a justice minister required to take legal and administrative measures to correct that situation or complain to the media as if he is an opposition deputy and not the minister of a government who has been in office for the past more than six-year period?