In today’s Turkey, censorship has become the new normal. It is so frequently practiced that the matter has conceivably lost its journalistic allure for media members. But all-embracing bans sometimes reach to a point where it befuddles observers, leaves legal experts scratching their heads to make sense of a particular ban for its rationale and reasoning.
In one of those mind-boggling moments this week, a local court in Izmir blocked access to a web page of Turkey’s Constitutional Court, a decision that revealed how things turned upside down in the hierarchy of courts in Turkey’s judicial system.
Izmir 7th Criminal Court of Peace banned access to a 2014-dated ruling by Constitutional Court about Deniz Yazici, a doctor who applied to the top court after he was brutally beaten by police in 2008.
His efforts to seek justice at the city court yielded no result, therefore he applied to Constitutional Court in 2014.
The top court ruled that local court violated rights of fair trial and practiced mishaps in legal procedure during the process. On Dec. 10, 2014, the Constitutional Court, in a unanimous vote, decided that the policemen must pay at least TL 20,000 compensation to the young doctor who faced violence at a police station over a dispute regarding his ID card.
But for an unknown reason this Tuesday, Izmir 7th Criminal Court of Peace blocked the access to the top court ruling on its website. It also blocked access to archive stories of the top court ruling in 2014 in newspapers’ websites.
The decision sparked an uproar among legal experts and Turkish people, unleashing an outpour of messages that made a mockery of the lower court ruling in social media.
Associate Professor Kerem Altiparmak, a legal expert who taught law at Ankara University, told the Turkish media that the local court’s decision confirmed their years of criticism about the criminal courts of peace, which came into existence in 2014 in a controversial government move.
“When Constitutional Court saw its website blocked, it would probably understand what it meant,” he told Duvar, a news web portal on Tuesday.
When Constitutional Court issues a ruling, it sets a precedent in a particular area to be followed by lower courts. And blocking access to a ruling on its website sends chilling echoes across Turkey’s judicial system, disrupting the sense of order and hierarchy that governs judicial affairs.
Turkey’s judiciary has come under enormous strain, faced tremendous political pressure since the failed coup last year. More than 4,000 judges and prosecutors have been fired in a mass purge, while more than 2,000 of them have been imprisoned.
Taken hostage by the ever-present threat of purge and crackdown, the judiciary is plagued by dysfunction and not-so-discreet political interference during post-coup trials.
On the second day of the coup, a prosecutor at a local court issued arrest warrants for 2 members of Constitutional Court, hundreds of members of Supreme Court and the Council of State, which are Turkey’s top courts.
The rupture triggered by the purge had a disastrous, disruptive impact on judicial independence and relations between different courts.
“The Criminal Court of Peace can also block the entire page [website] of Constitutional Court, saying that ‘I have the jurisdiction.’ Legally, there is no obstacle. But I think it’s very important to show how absurd it is,” Mr. Altiparmak said, regarding the lower court’s ruling against Constitutional Court.
“They need to explain this to us.”