End near for Turkey’s rule of law – the Nation

An ongoing constitutional crisis “could spell the end to the rule of law and the separation of powers in Turkey”, correspondent Constanze Letsch wrote for the weekly U.S. magazine The Nation.

The crisis centres around the trials of two journalists, Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan, who have been held pending trial since 2016 on terrorism charges related to the failed coup attempt that year.

Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled for the journalists’ release last January, on the grounds that their pretrial detentions were unjustified, and that there was a lack of evidence that they had committed any crime.

This ruling by Turkey’s highest court should have led to the release not only of the two journalists, but of many others held on the same charges, the lawyer Veysel Ok was quoted in the piece as saying.

However, the journalists have remained imprisoned due to extraordinary interventions by five lower courts, which seemed to comply with statements by Turkish government officials that the Constitutional Court had “exceeded its authority”.

This failure to comply with the Constitutional Court’s ruling has “incensed legal experts”, according to Letsch’s piece, and could even spell the end for the rule of law in Turkey.

“According to the Constitution, the decisions of the Constitutional Court are final and binding,” Veysel Ok was quoted as saying. “This means that the judicial chain of command has been broken. It means that the Constitutional Court is no longer a working branch of the judiciary, and no longer a legal remedy. This is a massive shock, an earthquake.”

The aftershocks of this judicial earthquake may even be felt outside Turkey, warned Letsch, quoting Ok’s statement that defiance of rulings by the European Court of Human Rights could lead to a “final rupture with European and Western judicial standards.”