Justice Minister of Turkey, Yılmaz Tunç, on Jan. 19 said that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) acted with “political concerns” in its judgments demanding the immediate release of businessman Osman Kavala and prominent Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş.
“The ECHR does not evaluate the existing evidence with judicial principles,” Tunç told CNN Türk during a live broadcast. The ECHR had ruled in 2019 and 2020 that Turkey had to take all necessary measures to secure the immediate release of Kavala and Demirtaş respectively.
Tunç also evaluated the ongoing legal crisis between Turkey’s two high courts, the Constitutional Court (AYM) and Court of Cassation, on releasing Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) deputy Can Atalay. Tunç noted that the Court of Cassation rulings were just as binding as the AYM rulings.
He suggested that the Court of Cassation was rightful to dismiss Atalay’s release as the crimes preceded his election as deputy, and his crimes were “against the constitutional order,” which were considered terror charges.
“We ask our citizens whether a crime of terror committed before elections should be under the scope of legislative immunity,” Tunç summarized the government’s stance on Atalay.
Tunç maintained that the ongoing legal crisis between the two courts stemmed from a discrepancy between constitutional articles. “The root of the issue is the Constitution,” the Minister said, adding that there have been 184 amendments to the current document. He pointed to the ongoing discussions about a new draft constitution supported by the Justice and Development (AKP) government.
He suggested a new practice where the Court of Cassation and Council of State (Danıştay) members weighed in on the individual applications to the AYM.
The minister also complained about the “deliberate propaganda” to tarnish public trust in the judicial system. Tunç criticized the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law index as “faulty information.” According to the minister, it was unrealistic that Angola ranked higher than Turkey on the index. “Turkey ranks much higher than 116th as a country that defends justice in the world,” posited Tunç.
What had happened regarding Can Atalay's case?
The Court of Cassation on Jan. 3 dismissed the AYM ruling that found rights violations in TİP MP Can Atalay’s imprisonment for a second time, calling it “unlawful.”
Opposition figures deemed the crisis a judicial coup attempt, whereas the ruling AKP and its ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) defended the move, suggesting the AYM was overstepping its jurisdiction.
Atalay was among the seven defendants who were sentenced to 18 years in prison in the Gezi Park trial. He was convicted for “assisting to the attempted abolishment of the government." Atalay was elected as a Hatay deputy from TİP in the May 14 general elections, which entailed his release as he gained legislative immunity.