Turkish News Folder, 13 January 2012

Deputy Chairman Faik Öztrak urges AKP to take the World Bank Report seriously:

Faik Öztrak said “CHP has been warning this government for six months along the lines of the conclusions of the recent World Bank report, which apparently—because it is said in Turkish—has been completely ignored by this government.” World Bank had commented on Turkey’s conditions in its recent Outlook 2012 Report:

“In scenarios where financing becomes tighter and re-financing of foreign debt becomes more difficult, some countries may either have to run down their foreign currency reserves or constrain domestic demand. These risks are particularly pronounced for countries like Turkey which have very high current account deficits, a short-term maturity profile and low level of F/X reserves.”

Öztrak added that “in the report, Turkey and Romania have suffered the largest cuts in 2012 growth forecasts. Six months ago, WB had predicted that Turkey would grow by 5.1% in 2012, now this has been revised down to 2.9%. A deceleration of growth from 8.2% in 2011 to 2.9% in 2012 amounts to a hard landing.

Also according to this report, Turkey is the only country among Europe and Eurasian economies that will suffer from higher inflation.  Moreover in scenarios of credit bottlenecks, Turkey is deemed the 6th most vulnerable developing country in a universe of 30.

DB projects that in the geographical vicinity of Turkey net foreign financial flows will amount to US$76.3 billion. It would be very hard to maintain the US$65.4 billion current account deficit that AKP had forecasted in its 2012 macro-projections. We are facing either a sharp growth slowdown or a rapid exhaustion of Central Bank F/X reserves. The bill will paid by the Turkish citizens, currently being unwisely encouraged by AKP to borrow and spend more.”

“For the last six months, CHP had voiced very similar concerns to those of WB, which the PM has ignored completely. Perhaps, the English language warnings by WB will now be taken more seriously. AKP can’t restore confidence in the economy merely by enunciating a Medium Term Economic Program when the world is experiencing a severe bout of uncertainty.  The failure of the Medium Term Economic Program is demonstrated by the interest rate paid on Turkey’s 10 year dollar denominated bond, where the Treasury was forced to pay 6.35%.  At the same maturity USA pays 1.87%, Germany 1.93%. France and Spain, two countries the credit ratings of which have been cut very recently, had only paid 3.25% and %5.1 respectively.”

“AKP’s mismanagement of the economy caused loan rates for consumer to escalate to 20%.  The cost of AKP’s neglect to adopt the measures suggested by CHP is rising rapidly and burdening an already overstretched citizenry.”

Kilicdaroglu mocks AKP’s amnesty proposal

Shocked by the national and international criticism that erupted after a prosecutor charged CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu for obstructing the justice, AKP rushed a judiciary reform package to the Grand assembly, which also includes an amnesty for the kind of “crimes” committed by Kilicdaroglu.

Speaking to victims of Van earthquake hosted by the Istanbul borough of Kartal on Sunday, Kilicdaroglu turned down the amnesty article.  “We are starved for justice in this country in the 21st century” starts Kilicdaroglu. “I don’t demand forgiveness.  I want to be tried and acquitted.”

He added “I never asked for a pardon.  I want to be tried and acquitted in impartial courts of law. This is the 21st century, we still cry out for justice, freedom and an independent press.  We must end the Reign of Fear imposed on by AKP”.

Why was Kilicdaroglu charged?

Kemal Kilicdaroglu gave a speech to the Turkish press in November following a visit to Mustafa Balbay and Mehmet Haberal, who are both jailed in Silivri Prison as part of an investigation into Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal network charged with plotting to overthrow the government. During his speech, Kilicdaroglu likened Silivri Prison to a “concentration camp,” and said he could not accept calling the judges hearing the Ergenekon case “judges.” Public Prosecutor Ali İşgören launched the investigation into those remarks, accusing Kilicdaroglu of “attempting to influence a fair trial”

Claiming that the judiciary should also be called into account in a democratic system, Kilicdaroglu said on a program broadcast on Habertürk TV: “I have to oppose what I see as wrong. That’s my duty being the opposition party leader.” “The probe aims to deprive someone of his freedom of expression, which is a fundamental democratic freedom.” he stated.

Kilicdaroglu reiterated his previous comments on Silivri Prison, depicting it as a concentration camp. He expressed his belief that specially authorized courts hearing the Ergenekon trial are under the influence of the government, taking a judge who resigned in September from his post after being under institutional pressure as an example.

On Wednesday, Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay also made parallel statements to the CHP leader in a TV broadcast, criticizing the investigation and stressing the importance of freedom of expression in general.

Meanwhile, the investigation against Kilicdaroglu also sparked negative reactions from the European Parliament. Emine Bozkurt, a Dutch deputy of Turkish descent in the European Parliament, was quoted by the Milliyet daily as saying that the investigation aims to silence the opposition. (ZAMAN, 13 January 2012).

Kilicdaroglu defiant in the face of judicial intimidation

Main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu applied yesterday for the abolition of his judicial immunity and stepped up accusations that the judiciary has become a political weapon in government hands.

“You cannot intimidate me with your special-authority courts. I am not bowing down to you. I will say what I say even if you send me to prison and even to the gallows,” Kilicdaroglu said in an emotional address to his Republican People’s Party (CHP) parliamentary group, from whom the CHP leader received a hero’s welcome.

The deputies were scheduled to collectively follow him today in applying to have their immunities lifted.

“What needed to happen has happened,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, showing no sympathy for his arch-rival. Erdoğan said the prosecutor’s move targeting Kilicdaroglu was long due.

Speaking to his lawmakers, Kilicdaroglu reiterated that the Silivri Prison, where two CHP deputies are awaiting trial, had become a “concentration camp” for opponents of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). For such remarks, he now risks standing trial for “attempting to influence a fair trial” and “insulting court members.”

The CHP leader will land in court if the justice minister approves the request for his trial and sends it to Parliament, where a vote is required to abolish his immunity.

Kilicdaroglu said the trial of hundreds of people on charges of plotting to unseat the government had degenerated into a “blood feud” and added that he had “not even the slightest trust” in the judicial system. “By fair trial, they mean seizing unpublished books and jailing students who demand free education. What we are asking for is the supremacy of law. Taking revenge is not normalization,” he said. (Hurriyet Daily News, 11 January 2012).

Constitutional Court makes a mockery of justice

It is hard to disagree with the accusations by Kilicdaroglu that the courts have become pawns of the government and had lost the trust of the nation.  In a recent survey conducted by Kadir Has University of Istanbul 46% of the participants expressed lack of faith in the judiciary.  In a recent ruling the Constitutional Court added to the concerns of the opposition. The bench ruled against CHP’s request for Chief Justice Hasim Kilic to recuse himself from the deliberations on the petition filed by CHP to overturn 11 Cabinet decrees with the force of law, and than convicted the party to pay a fine of  TL6,000 for filing false charges.  (VATAN)

Kılıcdaroglu expresses his condolences to Hrant Dink’s widow, Rakel Dink

CHP is not the only quarter which has severely criticized Turkish judiciary.  The whole nation was outraged by the verdict in the case of the murder of Hrant Dink, where the court found no evidence of a conspiracy.

In connection with the fifth anniversary of the murder of Hrant Dink—the founder and former chief editor of Istanbul’s Agos Armenian weekly, who was killed on January 19, 2007—Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu telephoned Dink’s widow, Rakel Dink.

During the telephone conversation, Kilicdaroglu said: “Your pain is very deep. I know that the verdict of the judicial system, which is a subject of the ruling party, increased your pain twice as much,” CNN Turk news agency informs.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu had harshly criticized the court’s ruling on Hrant Dink’s murder case, and stressed that, on the one hand, they are trying students, who demand free education, for being members of an organized criminal group, and, on the other hand, they note that Dink’s killers are not criminal group members, and that they functioned alone. “This is the justice of the[Turkey’s ruling] Justice and Development Party [AKP],” Kilicdaroglu had stated.

To note, on Tuesday, the Turkish court found Yasin Hayal guilty of planning and organizing Hrant Dink’s murder, and sentenced him to life in prison. Erhan Tuncel, on the other hand, was found not guilty of prompting Dink’s murder, and, instead, he was sentenced to 10 years and 6 months for an explosion in a McDonald’s store. But taking into account that Tuncel was already incarcerated for that amount of time, the court ruled his release. The court also found the nineteen defendants not guilty of being members of a terrorist organization. And earlier, Hrant Dink’s actual killer, Ogun Samast, was sentenced to a total of 22 years and 10 months for Dink’s murder and for bearing illegal arms. But Samast was tried at a juvenile court, since he was a minor at the time of the murder.

PM Erdogan wowed that “the real murderers will not disappear into the shadowy underground labyrinth of Ankara” suggesting he, too suspects foul play beyond what the court found.  Having governed the country for 10 years and folded the nation that the 12th of September referendum would bring about a free and independent judiciary that shall no longer “cover up” for the crimes of the deep State, it is astonishing to find the prime minister himself still complaining of the monster he had created. Had his party not used the opportunity to stuff the benches with cronies and ultraconservatives with a grudge against dissidents and republicans, Dink might have found justice.

Human Rights Watch condemns Turkey

Finally, impartial international human rights monitoring group Human Rights Watch issued a report on the Turkish judiciary which confirms CHP’s views:

– Turkey‘s international credibility as a rising regional power will be compromised as long as it imprisons journalists, Kurdish political activists, and other government critics, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2012.

Since winning a third term with a strong showing of 50 percent of the vote in the June 12 general election, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) government has taken increasing steps to abridge rights at home, Human Rights Watch said. It has restricted freedom of expression, association, and assembly with laws that allow authorities to jail its critics for many months or years while they stand trial for alleged terrorism offenses on the basis of flimsy evidence.

“The Turkish government’s jailing of journalists and non-violent political activists undermines its democratic credentials in the region,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, the Turkey researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The government needs to end the clampdown and reform its terrorism laws.”

In its 676-page report, Human Rights Watch assessed progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries, including popular uprisings in the Arab world that few would have imagined. Given the violent forces resisting the “Arab Spring,” the international community has an important role to play in assisting the birth of rights-respecting democracies in the region, Human Rights Watch said in the report.

Human Rights Watch also highlighted the endemic violence against women in Turkey, police violence and use of force, moves to combat impunity for human rights violations, and international pressure on Turkey over its human rights record.

The government has pledged to rewrite the constitution to further human rights. But the intensified clampdown centering on officials of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (Barış ve Demokrasi Partisi, BDP), but also including other critics of the government, threatens that process, Human Rights Watch said.

Thousands of people ­– including party activists, elected serving mayors, lawyers, journalists, several human rights defenders, and an academic – are on trial. Many of them are in prolonged pre-trial detention. They are accused of  links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, PKK) and the Kurdistan Communities Union (Koma Ciwakên Kurdistan, KCK), which the authorities claim is the PKK’s urban wing.

An increasing number of journalists and editors were arrested during 2011. On December 24, 36 journalists with the pro-Kurdish press were imprisoned on terrorism charges in the context of the broader clampdown on Kurdish political activity. In March, several other journalists including Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener were imprisoned on terrorism charges for alleged links with coup plots against the government. The evidence presented against Şık and Şener was writings that do not incite violence.

The conflict with the PKK in Turkey escalated during 2011, with a rising number of civilian casualties in the second half of the year. PKK-related attacks killed and injured civilians in several cities. On December 28, Turkish air force jets bombed and killed 34 Kurdish villagers, 19 of them children, in Şırnak province near the Iraq border. An investigation into the lethal air strike is under way.

Human Rights Watch called for the full and impartial investigation into all civilian deaths and said that those responsible for unlawful killings should be brought to justice.

“Turkey seeks to play a role in advocating democratic reforms in the region, but it needs to accompany its regional outreach with democratic reform at home,” Sinclair-Webb said.

The Third Judicial Reform Package a joke

Panicked by the incessant criticism of the conduct of the judiciary and the party’s pervasive influence on the courts, AKP rushed a 100 article “Third Judicial Reform Package” to the Grand assembly. The package was greeted with disbelief by independent observers, because 80% of its concerns common misdemeanors, rather than violations of habeas corpus, due process and other severe abuses by the judiciary in cases concerning dissidents.

Regarding the long trial periods and the Press Code, the new draft law essentially instructs the judges to obey the spirit of the existing laws by documenting clearly why they deny bail in a particular case.  The new draft doesn’t change the definition of the crime, which is the main concern, but reduces some penalties.  It is still up to the prosecutors and judges to decide under which article of the Turkish Penal Code a particular defendant will be tried. The new draft, if approved in the current form, would not lead to the releases of generals, journalists or dissidents, because they are all charged with high treason (coup-plotting).  Neither are there any measures to reduce the massive and whole-sale crack down on PKK’s front organizations BDP and KCK.

Europe also unhappy with the Third Judicial Reform Package

A top official from the Council of Europe has heavily criticized Turkey’s judicial system and urged the country to stage a “radical overhaul” rather than conduct limited reforms.

“Progress is certainly possible but it will require a radical overhaul of the whole system. It will demand education and training of the judges and the prosecutors as there is an issue of eradicating old habits,” Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg recently told daily Hürriyet in Istanbul.

The government announced plans this week to speed up the judicial process but Hammarberg said the new laws would be insufficient on their own.

“It will take a bit of time,” said the commissioner, urging instead a complete change in mentality.
“The procedures are too lengthy and some indictments are of such low quality it is difficult for the judges to understand what is meant,” said Hammerberg.

The recent ruling in the Hrant Dink murder case was also on the official’s agenda. “When it comes to the Hrant Dink and Ergenekon cases, the energy invested in detaining people has been much more obvious in the case of Ergenekon in comparison to Dink,” said Hammarberg, who participated in a public commemoration of the late Armenian-Turkish journalist on Jan. 19, the fifth anniversary of the murder. “So few have been charged and sentenced, indicating there was a broader base for this conspiracy.”
On Jan. 17, a court sentenced one conspirator to life in prison for Dink’s murder but acquitted another. The court also failed to investigate state officials’ alleged links with the murder and ruled that no organized terror networks were behind the hit, angering people from all sides of the political spectrum.
Hammarberg said Turkey might be sentenced by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if the Dink verdict was approved by in an appeal.

“There is still an emphasis on the role of the state. Of course the situation is particularly sensitive in a case where there is involvement of officials from the state side as well as ordinary individuals,” he said.
The need for authorities to obtain permission before putting a civil servant on trial “is a reflection that there is something wrong in the justice system which needs to be addressed.”

When asked about the arrest of former Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ, the commissioner said long detention periods were a major problem for the Turkish judicial system.

“The implementation of detention before sentencing should be absolutely exceptional,” Hammarberg said. “We feel the issue is not only the length of detentions but whether there should be any detention at all. Detentions before a sentence is served should only be utilized when there is an extreme risk the person will disappear or would put pressure on the witnesses if they were free, for example. But that is not the situation in majority of the cases. (The Journal of Turkish Weekly)

About CHP EU Representation

The CHP was founded on 9 September 1923, about one and half month before the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey. The first President of modern Turkey’s oldest party was M. Kemal Atatürk. Today CHP is a social-democratic party, member of the Socialist International and associate member of the Socialist Group at the European Parliament. The scope of the CHP bureau in Brussels is not limited to the bilateral framework of Turkey's EU accession process. Issues such as the information society, energy policies, social development, climate change, international trade and security are among the different focus areas. The EU-Turkey relations are about integration and need multiple, plural and horizontal channels of communication. The CHP supports and promotes Turkey's EU membership process also by being more present and active in Brussels The CHP's Representative to the EU is Ms Kader Sevinç who previously worked as an MEP advisor at the European Parliament and in the private sector.
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