The wedding day visit of Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor Yüksel Kocaman and his bride to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at his palace on Sunday has sparked controversy and led to a new debate on the independence of the country’s judiciary.
According to Turkish media, Kocaman and Ayça Dursun were married at a luxury Ankara hotel in a ceremony attended by government ministers, heads of the high courts and other influential figures. The couple then went to the presidential palace together with their families to visit Erdoğan and accept gifts.
Kocaman had recently also caused controversy for going on vacation at a luxurious hotel in a private helicopter.
In an apparent reference to photos showing Kocaman and his wife with bags of gifts in front of the presidential palace, Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed ex-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said, “The gift bags that were handed to you will not be able to save you from prosecution.” His message was shared by one of his lawyers on Twitter.
In a series of tweets Mahsuni Karaman, another of Demirtaş’s attorneys, gave a timeline of the events that led to his client’s continuing incarceration together with Erdoğan’s comments about his case and finished the timeline by mentioning Chief Public Prosecutor Kocaman’s visit to Erdoğan, saying, “Did someone mention justice?”
Demirtaş was arrested on November 4, 2016 on terrorism-related charges and has been in jail since then. On November 20, 2018 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that Demirtaş’s lengthy pre-trial detention had violated the European Convention on Human Rights, ordering the Turkish government to pay 10,000 euros in compensation and calling for his release. The Strasbourg court described Demirtaş’s arrest as “politically motivated.”
Following the ECtHR decision, a Turkish appeals court upheld a four-year, eight-month sentence and in effect nullified the ECtHR decision.
Speaking about his case President Erdoğan said: “We cannot release them. If we do the martyrs will hold us to account,” in a September 2019 speech. Following his remarks, local courts rejected several applications for Demirtaş’s release filed by his lawyers.