Why is the judicial system against vengeance

Revenge instead of the rule of law

Publicist Ahmet Altan has to go to prison eight days after his release from prison. The back and forth shows that the judicial reform has changed little.

Only eight days after almost three and a half years in prison, conditionally released from the maximum security prison in Silivri, Ahmet Altan is already back in prison. The Istanbul public prosecutor's office appealed against the release from prison in a way that was scandalous even for Turkish standards and prevailed against the judges. As a result, the judges actually responsible also reversed their decision to lift the detention.

A judicial reform package was only passed through parliament in October, which was intended to bring improvements, especially for people who are in prison because of restrictions on freedom of expression. There was already speculation in the media about which intellectuals would be released now. Many observers hoped that the judiciary could now swim free from the grip of the executive, at least in part. But the unlawful re-arrest of Ahmet Altan shows that it is still not the judiciary that has the last word in such cases, but politics.

Ahmet Altan was arrested two weeks after the unsuccessful attempted coup on July 15, 2016. This year's winner of the Geschwister-Scholl-Preis was most recently the editor of the government-critical newspaper Tarafwhich was banned after the coup. Specifically, he was accused of spreading "subliminal messages" in a live talk show on the eve of the coup, which are said to have called for the overthrow of the government "associatively". He was therefore arrested on charges of "willingly and knowingly provided aid to an armed terrorist organization" - and released on November 4th of this year, subject to conditions.

Ahmet Altan's defense attorney Figen Çalıkuşu only found out from television about the new arrest warrant for her newly released client: "The document was served not to me, but to the official Anadolu news agency." other court of first instance may be ignored, says Çalıkuşu of the taz. “Somebody cut the brake cables while bending to the right,” she says. And Ahmet Altan's former lawyer, Veysel Ok, wrote on Twitter: “Released twice and detained twice in the same trial. Try to explain that legally. Let's rather agree that it was an act of revenge. "

Between schadenfreude and solidarity

However, it is not just the government that is apparently seeking revenge on Ahmet Altan. His actually gratifying release from prison in the first week of November also revealed the tectonic rift that runs through the opposition in Turkey. As editor-in-chief of the newspaper Taraf In the past he had also praised some of the politics of the AKP government as “democratic advances”. He was not forgiven this editorial line, although over the years he came to believe that the AKP had turned for the worse. Many well-known members of the opposition therefore had little to say against Altan being in jail for a crime he had never committed.

There is no doubt that the divided opinion among opposition members made it easier for those in power to commit a renewed bowing to the law in the Altan case. As soon as it is made dependent on personal details, whether one is outraged that the judiciary is controlled by the executive or is even happy about individual decisions, the AKP is given a free hand in its arbitrariness. Erdoğan can use the justice system as a bundle of rods and establish jurisdiction as a continuation of politics by other means. For lawyer Çalıkuşu, this reflex is a symptom of a chronic illness in Turkish society: "Everyone always wants justice and freedom for their own team."

The AKP government has not only changed the constitution of Turkey, it has also blatantly broken existing law and enforced an interpretation that serves to silence dissidents. Once again it has become clear that Turkey's legal problem cannot be resolved through judicial reform. Even after recent reforms, “crimes of terrorism” are still very vaguely defined. In the east of the country, mayors can therefore be removed who were elected with 70 percent of the vote. In this atmosphere, reforms can only aim at repairing people's damaged trust in the justice system by means of cosmetic measures. And offer a loophole to those who have grown tired of the criticism of the regime and would like to be harnessed to the cart of those in power. Erdoğan is still afraid of free thinking and any form of criticism. He will always find new ways to take revenge on his critics by exposing them to justice that he has made submissive.

From Turkishby Oliver Kontny