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Judicial reforms increase arbitrariness and persecution of opposition figures
Only in February was the Turkish writer Asli Erdogan acquitted after a long-standing trial – now the charges against her are to be resumed. Her lawyer found out at the weekend, two weeks late. “The court didn’t inform him,” says Asli Erdogan.
The author, whose globally successful books, most recently “Das Haus aus Stein”, is also available in German, was arrested in August 2016, immediately after the failed coup attempt in the context of nationwide mass arrests of opposition figures. She was released in December 2016, but was not allowed to leave Turkey for almost another year, the trial against her continued until early 2020.
She was, along with more than twenty other employees of the left daily newspaper Özgür Gündem, Accused of propaganda and membership in a terrorist organization and sedition. The newspaper was banned. Erdogan had, among other things, reported in her columns about the crimes of the Turkish army in the Kurdish-influenced southeast of the country. The columns appeared in German in their book “Not even the silence still belongs to us”.
Aslı Erdogan has been living in Germany since the end of 2017 – as have numerous other Turkish cultural figures and journalists who had to flee Turkey as part of the ruling AKP’s clean-up under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. There is still arbitrary justice there, hundreds of opposition figures are still arrested every week and charged with flimsy arguments. The media are largely aligned.
The public prosecutor usually has one week to appeal after a court decision. The fact that it will be inserted after months is further evidence of the arbitrariness in Erdogan’s judicial system. Just last week, the police had brutally responded to a protest march by hundreds of lawyers who took to the streets to limit their rights.
“After the acquittal,” Asli Erdogan says, “I trembled for a week and expected the opposition. It was a great relief when he didn’t come.” But now there are new changes in the judicial system.
“The court of appeal to which my case is now being transferred is small and staffed by young, loyal AKP judges. They make their judgments within three months, and if the sentence is less than five years in prison, an appeal is no longer possible.”
This court, she says, was set up by the AKP to block defendants from making their way to the Supreme Court of Appeals, which must also have something to do with what the European Court of Justice does. He has repeatedly judged judgments from Turkey as unlawful, but also rejected many complaints, noting that the plaintiffs would first have to exhaust the legal process in Turkey.
“What happens to my case now is a purely political decision,” says Aslı Erdogan.
“I see it as a neo-fascist regime. There are still judges who try to comply with norms and laws, but these are usually quickly removed and then persecuted. During my trial, judges and prosecutors were exchanged several times.”
Asli Erdogan is concerned about the future of Turkey:
“The regime is increasing the pressure, making it no longer a secret that there will be torture again. The AKP has massively lost its approval in the corona crisis.”
At the moment there is speculation, once again, about early elections.
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