Bülent Yücetürk, an Ankara prosecutor who has worked on some of Turkey’s high-profile political cases, has resigned from a judiciary that he has criticised as “reminiscent of Hitler’s Germany” to enter politics in time for upcoming elections, according to a report by Turkish newspaper Sol on Wednesday.
“The Turkish Republic has entered a crisis of law unlike any in its history,” said Yücetürk. “We are living in a period when courts’ verdicts are not being decided by the courts themselves.”
The rule of law under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been a source of concern for local and international observers, particularly since a decision by Turkey’s highest court to release journalists held on controversial terror charges was ignored by lower courts in January.
A former member of the Judges and Prosecutors Association(YARSAV), Yücetürk says the problems in the judiciary are far deeper-rooted than this, complaining that it has “lost its conscience and surrendered its might to a single power.”
Following the decision, he also appeared as a guest on a radio show, arguing that “Hitler told jurists in Germany to make their decisions according to what he would do in their place. Prosecutors in Turkey are acting somewhat similarly.”
He applied to become a member of parliament from the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Yücetürk has vowed to enter politics in order to “rebuild the rule of law in Turkey,” basing it on a legal system that respects judicial independence.
The Ankara prosecutor is known for his work related to an infamous sex-tape scandal that cost Deniz Baykal his position as leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). Yücetürk ran the investigation of who leaked a secretly recorded sex tape featuring Baykal, finding that the scandal had been orchestrated in an organised fashion.
The Turkish government has arrested a total of 2,431 judges and prosecutors and dismissed 4,424 others since a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a Constitutional Court general assembly ruling revealed in early August 2017.
The government has also prosecuted 1,539 lawyers, arrested 580 and sentenced 103 lawyers to long prison terms since a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, according to a report released by The Arrested Lawyers Initiative.
Turkey’s judiciary is being criticized for acting on orders from President Erdoğan and not basing their rulings on the law. Judges in Turkey who make decisions that anger Erdoğan are either replaced or jailed. Turkey has fallen to 101st position out of 113 countries in the World Justice Project’s (WJP) 2017-18 Rule of Law Index, a comprehensive measure of the rule of law.
Turkey has been criticized by European institutions and international human rights organizations for extended pre-trial detentions that could last for years. A comprehensive report by Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) titled “Turkey’s descent into arbitrariness: The end of rule of law” provides detailed information on how the rule of law has lost meaning in Turkish context, confirming the effective collapse of all domestic judicial and administrative remedies available for Turkish citizens who lodge complaints on rights violations.
It lists many recent cases showing the ways in which Turkey’s President Erdoğan and his associates in the government manipulate the judiciary through loyalists and partisans. An unprecedented intimidation campaign against independent judges and prosecutors including unlawful arrests and arbitrary asset seizures was pursued by political authorities.
The report showed Turkey is in breach of compliance with its international obligations under existing treaties, highlighting recent cases in which the carrot and stick approach has paralyzed the independent judiciary.
In addition to jailing thousands of judges and prosecutors, Turkey has also imprisoned hundreds of human rights defenders and lawyers, making it extremely difficult for detainees to access a lawyer in violation of due process and fair trial protections under the Turkish Code on Criminal Procedure.