17 August 2011
Thank God that Ahmet Şıks wife is doing the calculation so that we can see it every day. Monday was journalists Ahmet Şıks and Nedim Şeners 166th day in jail, and Tuesday is their 167th day.
Two of our colleagues, who were arrested and have been in jail all this time, are waiting for their indictments that contain the details of the charges against them.
Of course, Şık and Şener are only symbols. There are such a huge number of people it is almost impossible to calculate the exact number of people who are under arrest and are waiting in jail for their indictments to be written, in other words, for the court case to be opened.
This topic is only one of the judicial problems in our country. Some others include the extremely long time it takes to prepare the investigation, the question of whether the indictments will ever be written and the fact that the suspects spend most of this time under arrest.
There is one feature that separates the situation Şık and Şener are in from others who are in a similar situation: Their investigations are being made by specially commissioned prosecutors and, if opened, special courts will most probably take their cases.
Commissioned courts and prosecutors, as their name implies, act with special powers. Among those powers is hiding the evidence that constitutes the charges against the suspects and their lawyers from them.
Şık and Şener are under arrest based on secret evidence against them, in other words, despite the 166 days that have passed, they still do not know what they are being charged with.
This is, no doubt, not the only problem in our criminal procedures. Şık and Şener, even if their indictments are written and their cases opened, might continue to be tried under arrest. According to a verdict of the High Court of Appeals, the arrest period can be extended to 10 years. That is, they can stay in jail for 10 years without being sentenced.
The long arrest periods are the most hurtful of our judicial problems. But the main problem is not this. The long arrest periods are a consequence. What causes this is an essential problem that I call the mother of all problems:
The length of the judicial process.
Tried either under arrest or not, the period between the day an investigation for a criminal case starts in our country and the day of the final ruling is very, really very long.
Let me give two examples:
It took four and a half years to sentence the person accused of the murder of Hrant Dink even though the suspect did not deny the crime. There is also the High Court of Appeals phase of this, and if the High Court reverses the verdict, there is the retrial and again the High Court of Appeals
In another murder case that is continuing in Istanbul, the court has not or has not been able to move beyond investigating the identity of the murdered person to trying the person alleged to have committed the murder despite the passage of four years.
In such crimes as these where it is so open and indisputable as to who was responsible for the murder, the period of arrest is being unjustly used almost as a means of punishment because it takes so long to reach a verdict. Periods under arrest are being extended while, unfortunately, the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.
This is the essential problem we have to solve in the judiciary. Unless this is solved, unless the justice mechanism is improved, we will be waiting for many a 166 days.