Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ergenekon Showdown in the Judiciary

The Ergenekon investigation reached a new level of polarization in the past two days following the arrest of the Chief Prosecutor in Erzincan. From Hürriyet:
Tension mounted in Turkey’s judiciary Wednesday with the formal arrest of Erzincan’s chief prosecutor, setting off a struggle over authority after he was initially detained Tuesday by his counterpart in the neighboring province of Erzurum.

Controversy flared late in the day after İlhan Cihaner was formally arrested on charges of links to an alleged anti-government gang and when the special investigation authority of the Erzurum prosecutor was revoked. As questions flew in the prosecutor-vs.-prosecutor case, the authority of Erzurum prosecutor Osman Şanal was revoked, but apparently not soon enough to set Cihaner free.

As speculation grew in Ankara that pro- and anti-government factions in the judiciary had reached a new level of polarization, Cihaner stood accused of membership in the alleged “Ergenekon gang,” a group suspected of plotting to overthrow the government in an ongoing case that has seen scores arrested in the past 18 months.

Cihaner is seen as squarely in the “secularist camp” in Turkey’s political polarity, having launched an investigation into the Ismailağa religious sect in Erzincan in 2007.

However, Erzurum prosecutor Osman Şanal, who is – or was – specially authorized to handle counter terrorism and Ergenekon-related cases, took over the case. Şanal justified his claim with an anonymous letter that said Ismailağa was an armed organization and replaced Cihaner who was discharged from the investigation.

In 2009, Cihaner similarly attempted to launch an investigation into Fethullah Gülen, leader of the religious Gülen movement, but Şanal demanded the files, claiming that the probe fell under his own authority.

Then in June, because of his probe into the İsmailağa sect, Cihaner was accused of implementing an alleged anti-government plan drafted by Col. Dursun Çiçek, himself an Ergenekon suspect, to finish off the Gülen movement and the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, in Erzincan.

He also faced trial on charges of “falsifying documents,” “failing to inform the ministry of the Ismailağa religious sect probe,” and “causing environmental pollution by constructing a pergola in the garden of his official house allocated for judicial members.” The Justice Ministry launched the probe against Cihaner in line with Şanal’s indictment and at the end of June the investigation against Cihaner was merged with the Ergenekon case.

The first reaction came from Turkey's Judges and Prosecutors Association, or YARSAV, on Tuesday after Cihaner was detained, describing the move as a "serious violation of the law."

"This is a violation of the law caused by unauthorized people regarding a public prosecutor who should be tried by the Supreme Court of Appeals," said YARSAV Chairman Emine Ülker Tarhan said in a press conference late Tuesday.

The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, or HSYK, meanwhile, called an urgent meeting to discuss the developments, and after a four-hour meeting, the HSYK announced the investigation authority of the four specially authorized prosecutors, including Şanal, was revoked. The four prosecutors who were involved in the search process will not be able to take part in the Ergenekon investigation being carried out in Erzurum, according to the decision of the seven-member HSYK.

The decision was made by the five judicial members from the Supreme Court of Appeals and Council of State. HSYK’s other member, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, didn’t attend the meeting, while his undersecretary, who is also a HSYK member, left the meeting early.

Afterward, 30 members of the Supreme Court of Appeals on Tuesday called on the chairmanship to gather for a special agenda. Supreme Court of Appeals President Hasan Gerçeker on Wednesday said they found the HSYK’s decision in line with the law and that the decision should be implemented.
Hurriyet also reports that Cihaner was removed of his duties in the Ismailaga investigation after charges from his office that the group was armed and dangerous proved to be false. The investigation was apparently then turned over to Sanal. Cihaner's phone had also been wiretapped.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc and Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin denounced the HSYK decision as illegitimate, accusing the Board of ovestepping its bounds and obstructing the investigation. The Supreme Court of Appeals announced it will start its own investigation into what took place between the two prosecutors.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another Related Article:

Bid to ban party may force Turkey election

Thomas Seibert, Foreign Correspondent

* Last Updated: February 18. 2010 9:13PM UAE / February 18. 2010 5:13PM GMT

ISTANBUL // In a development that could lead to a new attempt to ban Turkey’s ruling party and to early parliamentary elections, the arrest of a state prosecutor linked to an alleged plot to stage a coup d’etat has sparked a severe crisis in Ankara, as the government and judiciary descend into a bitter row about alleged political interference into the work of judges and prosecutors.

Faced with the possibility of a new trial before the constitutional court, the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is preparing for snap elections, an unnamed high-ranking party official told yesterday’s Radikal newspaper.

“In case a new trial to dissolve the party is launched, we will go to elections immediately,” the official told the daily. The AKP would expect strong support from voters if it was threatened by a ban, the official said. Elections are not due until the summer of 2011, but they could be brought forward to this year, according to Radikal.

The constitutional court came close to banning the religiously conservative AKP in 2008 for anti-secular activities. Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, the prosecutor general who is known for his opposition to the party, has hinted that a new trial could be in the offing. He said in a statement this week that his office was investigating “whether the judiciary has come under political influence”.

“He is thinking about closing down” the AKP, a newspaper headline said about the prosecutor general yesterday.

The latest crisis erupted after the arrest this week of Ilhan Cihaner, the top prosecutor in the eastern Anatolian province of Erzincan. Mr Cihaner was accused by Osman Sanal, an antiterror prosecutor from the neighbouring province of Erzurum, of being a member of Ergenekon, a suspected right-wing organisation that prosecutors in Istanbul say tried to bring down the Erdogan government by staging a military coup. Dozens of suspects, among them retired and serving military officers, have been standing trial in Istanbul for creating and leading the organisation.

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According to news reports, Mr Cihaner, known as a stout secularist who had investigated alleged activities of two Islamic groups in the region, is accused of closely co-operating with Dursun Cicek, a colonel of the military in Ankara who has been linked to Ergenekon. Forensic experts say the colonel signed a plan last year that mapped out a strategy to destabilise the government. One step in the plan was to plant weapons into facilities of peaceful Islamic groups to present them as violent extremists supporting the AKP. Mr Sanal started his investigations after hand grenades and other weapons were found in the Erzincan area late last year.

Following the arrest of Mr Cihaner, the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors, or HSYK, an institution seen as a secularist bastion, made a move that escalated tensions further. Within hours, it stripped Mr Sanal and three other prosecutors of their powers to investigate the prosecutor. The HSYK also said it would bring criminal charges against the four and another prosecutor. Mr Cihaner, nevertheless, remains in custody.

for the full article: