Orhan Kemal Cengiz

Orhan Kemal Cengiz

Who will be on trial after the election?

“The judiciary will be working on high-profile criminal cases after the elections.”

The judiciary is under the absolute and total control of the government in Turkey. This means two things: One is that if you make people in powerful positions angry you end up being criminally investigated and sometimes find yourself in prison. In the last eight years, 300,000 people have been investigated for allegedly insulting the president. These investigations produced 44,675 trials. As a result, 16,993 people were punished and 4,864 of them received prison sentences.

The second meaning of the absolute control of the judiciary is this: no one who is close to power and protected by those in power can be imprisoned. In today’s Turkey, it is impossible to see a prosecutor investigating or prosecuting financial crimes, such as corruption, bid rigging, and so on when these crimes implicate government circles or people who are close to these circles. This absolute impunity covers many other crimes, as well. Prosecutors who dare to sue people who have good connections to the government find themselves in remote parts of the country. The last example comes from Karaburun, Izmir, in the first weeks of September. Karaburun chair of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which is the ally of the government, has raided the courthouse and beaten witnesses in the corridors of the court. The prosecutor sent him to the judge with the request of being arrested pending trial. He was arrested. But the very same night the prosecutor and his wife were exiled to a remote corner of the country. After the prosecutor was sent away, the MHP chair was released.

So, if I return to the question posed in the title of this article: I believe under any circumstances there will be large-scale trials after the elections. In the number one scenario, the governments win again. In this case, the opposition will be put on trial in large numbers. Gezi trials indicate to us that many other people could be investigated in connection with the Gezi uprisings. The government has long been building new prisons in every corner of the country and these prisons may be filled after the elections. This government cannot solve the economic crisis it has created, and it cannot rule this country democratically as long as the crises continue. The deeper the economic crisis, the more repressive the regime will be.

The second scenario: the opposition wins. In this case, we can witness large-scale replacements within the ranks of the judiciary, and inevitably, the judiciary will go after all crimes committed by the people during the reign of the AKP government. In this case, I hope that we can see trials that meet fair trial guarantees. Since all trials turn into revenge-taking in Turkey, I also have doubts and concerns about these would-be trials. Someone from the far-left opposition even said that the AKP will be announced as a terrorist organization, and they will be tried accordingly. Such a move would be another disaster for normalization and for establishing rule of law in Turkey. Everyone should be tried for crimes they committed, and no one must be put in undefined, open-ended crime schemes such as being members of so-called terrorist organizations, a habit which has long killed rule of law in this country. 

Third scenario: The opposition wins with a very narrow margin. This is the one I find most dangerous for Turkey. Because in this case, I believe there may be strong resistance to a peaceful transition of power. Bureaucracy and government-controlled judiciary can see this defeat as a temporary situation and would do anything in their power to weaken the government that would be built by the coalition. In this scenario, we could witness surgical investigations and prosecutions against carefully chosen targets.

In sum, I believe, the judiciary will be working on high-profile criminal cases after the elections. Some people will be on trial. But we do not know who these people will be, yet!

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