A Quick Glance at the Hearings: The First Month
It has been more than a month that peace academics of Turkey are on trial. More than a hunderd of hearings have been held and academics have started to presents their plea statements. The hearings have been held in five different assize courts of Istanbul, alongside with the case of “the four academics” that is separately adjudicated in the 13th Assize Court of Istanbul. During these hearings several requests that are expressed by the lawyers or the academics themselves highlight the nature of the judgment and give clues about the way that law becomes subjected to inconsistency and arbitrariness. Below you can find a summary of these requests and the answers given to them by the courts.
The main requests asserted by the academics in the hearings are as follows:
* Immediate Acquittance: With this request, the academics have stressed that there exist no crime, the wordings of the Article 7/2 of the Turkish Anti-Terror Law and Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code bear a vagueness and the content of the declaration doesn’t correspond to the crimes mentioned in Article 7/2.
* Rejoinder of the Cases: The case, in which “The Four Academics” are being judged since 2016 for undersigning the declaration keeps being held at 13th Assize Court of Istanbul. The remaining cases that have started on December 5th, 2017 are also being held in Istanbul Assize Courts. Hence, it is requested to decide for the adjoinder of these cases due to the concerns of procedural economy and in order to prevent inconsistent decisions and violation of the right to a fair trial.
* Asking for Permission from the Ministry of Justice for the Application of Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code: On April 22, 2016, at the first hearing of the trial held at 13th Assize Court that has started with the conviction upon Article 7/2 of the Turkish Anti-Terror Law, the prosecutor had requested for an application to the Ministry of Justice in order to take the grant for changing the fundamentals of the conviction and the judgment to the Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which is based on “Defaming the Turkish Nation, The State of Turkish Republic and the institutions and organs of the State”. As all the cases are being held on the same basis, the lawyers have articulated the request to the court to apply to the Ministry in order to take grant for carrying out the judgment through Article 301 and to dissolve the discrepancy.
* Unconstitutionality of Article 7/2 of the Turkish Anti-Terror Law: Several lawyers have stated in their pleas that Article 7/2 of the Turkish Anti-Terror Law is against the constitution and requested the court to apply to the Constitutional Court.
* Suspending the Judgment during the Period of State of Emergency: Some of the lawyers have stated that the people who are governing the country have expressed their personal opinions about the declaration and that the same people have the authority to dismiss the judges vie Governmental Decrees. Upon these facts, the lawyers have requested the suspension of the judgments due to the lack of legal guarantees for judges.
* Summoning the Law-Enforcement Officers as Witnesses: It is also requested from the court to summon the law-enforcement officers who have translated the English version of the declaration to Turkish in the indictment as witnesses.
* Exemption from the Hearings: Some academics have requested to be exempted from the hearings due to their age and health problems.
* Additional Time for Preparing the Pleas: In the majority of the hearings, the academics have not introduced their pleas of defence and their lawyers have requested for additional time as it was not clear upon which Article the judgment would be held.
The responses given to the mentioned requests are as follows:
* Immediate Acquittance: The requests of immediate acquittance have been rejected in each case and by all the courts. The grounds for the rejection have been stated as: The criminal nature of the action on trial shall be evaluated at the end of the proceedings; the action requires to be adjudicated; the judgment can only be given after the evaluation of the evidences and the interrogatory statements and pleas have been listened; the grounds for acquittance have not occurred in the actual case.
* Rejoinder of the Cases: Some courts have directly rejected the request of rejoinder while some others have decided to evaluate the request after the relevant file becomes delivered from 13th Assize Court and the pleas are listened.As a ground for the rejection, the courts have stated that: The rejoinder is not obligatory; in the case that some of the defendants are unable to be reached, the court will need to wait for the completion of the pleas and as this would prolong the adjudication process, it would violate the right to a fair trial; each case have been filed against a distinct person and the lack of personal connection among them puts forward the principle of individual criminal responsibility.
It should also be noted that most of the Courts have accepted the request of asking for the relevant file from 13th Assize Court.
* Asking for Permission from the Ministry of Justice for the Application of Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code: The majority of the courts have stated that this request shall be evaluated after the delivery of the minutes hearings from 13th Assize Court and the response to the permission letter that is sent to the Ministry.
As a ground for rejecting the request, some of the courts have stated that the conditions for applying Article 301 have not occurred; it would be a reflection of bias to as for permission to carry out the judgment on Article 301; the decision of the 13th Assize Court does not have a binding power on other courts.
* Unconstitutionality of Article 7/2 of the Turkish Anti-Terror Law: The situation of the actual evidences has been introduced as the ground for rejecting the request.
* Suspending the Judgment during the Period of State of Emergency: The relevant court has rejected the request on the grounds on the grounds that the conditions for suspending have not occurred given to the current state of the evidences.
* Summoning the Law-Enforcement Officers as Witnesses: The relevant court has accepted the request of hearing the officers as witnesses on the account of the fact that the text of the declaration is included in the case-file.
* Exemption from the Hearings: The relevant court has decided the defendant to be exempted from the hearings as her/his plea of defences has been submitted.
* Additional Time: The request that has been accepted in all the hearings was the request of additional time for preparing the pleas of defence.