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03.09.2008

Ergenekon indictment may trouble Turkey


The Ergenekon case was heralded as the end of "deep-state" organizations that undermine democracy through an ultra-nationalist violent agenda. However, Ankara may run into serious trouble over the prosecution of the lawsuit, as many of the disclosed wiretappings may be subject to charges of violation of privacy at the European Court of Human Rights, Milliyet reported yesterday.

The Strasbourg-based court ruled in 2003 that the disclosure of extracts from intercepted conversations of former Italian Prime Minister Benedetto Craxi, who was charged with corruption in the "clean hands" campaign of 1994, was a violation of the European Human Rights Convention. The top European court observed that the revealed scripts of wiretappings had no connection with the charges brought against Craxi, who was sentenced to eight years in prison and died in 2000. The court awarded each of the applicant's heirs 2,000 euros in non-pecuniary damages.

In a similar vein, the 2,500-page-long Ergenekon indictment has been criticized for containing irrelevant information on the accused. The dean of Yeditepe University's law faculty, professor Haluk Kabaalioğlu, noted that phone conversations unrelated to the lawsuit should have been excluded from the indictment all along.

"The Ergenekon indictment showed us that personal rights and freedoms are not observed in Turkey," Kabaalioğlu stressed.

Some parts of the indictment contained tapped conversations that led to claims against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and former State Minster Hayati Yazıcı, Erdoğan's attorney when he was on trial for reading a provocative poem in 1998.

According to tapped conversations added to the appendices of the Ergenekon indictment, National Journal reporter Şaban Kalafat and former deputy Emin Şirin talked about Yazıcı's attempt to bribe judges to save Erdoğan. Yazıcı had rejected the allegations and Kalafat said he did not remember the conversation.

The indictment contains many wiretappings of people not on the list of accused in the lawsuit.

‘Turkish laws provide adequate coverage'

Attorney Yusuf Alataş warned that Turkey might face similar problems to Italy if domestic courts fall short of providing compensation for damages, if there are any.

"My impression is that there is a problem on protection of private life in the Ergenekon case," he maintained, and asserted that jurists dealing with the case should have a clearer picture of events.

 "We have to wait for the proceedings before any definite conclusions," he added.

"If the accused is facing charges of founding a gang, information unrelated to the crime must be destroyed," chair of the Turkish Judges and Prosecutors Union, or YARSAV, Ömer Faruk Eminağaoğlu asserted.

"Doing otherwise would be a breach of private life. It crosses the accusation line in the lawsuit," he said. 

"The lawsuit is continuing, and judicial authority may or may not stand upon this," Eminağaoğlu maintained, noting the ambiguity surrounding the indictment from the start.

"Much information on the Ergenekon case can be found in public discussions, and I think it is imperative to wait for what the judges say," Eminağaoğlu underlined.

Kabaalioğlu asserted that the Turkish Penal Code provides adequate protection for personal privacy and there is no need for a European Court of Human Rights decision to attest to a possible breach of that protection.

"Unfortunately, with this indictment we see that the law on protection of personal rights and freedoms is not observed in Turkey," Kabaalioğlu maintained.