'I WANT TO BE RELEASED BECAUSE...'
Journalist Nedim Şener's lawyers objected to a court decision that sent the journalist to prison. In their 20-page petition, the lawyers responded to claims by prosecutors and said there were no grounds to arrest Şener.
"We could not learn the 'restriction decision,' the file number and the date, all of this has hampered the right to defense," the lawyers said in their petition. "But the contents of some phone conversations that were not shown to us."
"All the 23 phone conversations except one were made in 2009," the petition read. "The investigation into our client was launched in 2010, so the tapping minutes, which were given as a reason for arresting Şener, are 'illegal evidence.'"
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT REPORT FAULTS LACK OF PRESS FREEDOM IN TURKEY
The European Parliament adopted a report about Turkey with a majority vote and expressed its concern about the freedom of press in Turkey. The European Parliament said the arrests of prominent journalists, including Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık, might weaken the credibility of the judges in Turkey.
The parliament's report expressed concern over lengthy pre-trial detention periods and re-emphasized the need for an efficient and fair process for suspects. The report also stressed that Turkey could be a source of inspiration for the Arab world as a secular democracy that is overwhelmingly Muslim.
ACCUSED HELD ON 'SECRET EVIDENCE' IN TURKEY
Blocking defendants in the Ergenekon coup-plot case from seeing "secret evidence" against them violates their rights to legal defense and a fair trial, defense lawyers have said in the wake the recent detentions of journalists.
"If a lawyer is about to make a defense, they should see everything related to the accusations and prepare the defense accordingly. If they are not given access to some ofthe evidence, they cannot make a proper defense," said Professor Hakan Hakeri, the dean of the law school at 19 Mayıs University.
"The principle of 'equality of arms' means both the defense counsel and the prosecution have equal rights. In other words, if a prosecutor has information and documents with which to accuse a suspect, the defense counsel should also have the same information and documents," said criminal lawyer Tuncer Özyavuz.
"Under the secrecy decision, prosecutors have full authority over the evidence file and defense lawyers have none. Everything is under the prosecutor's control," Özyavuz added. "The prosecutor reads the document, but does not allow it to be inspected. That is a restriction of the defense."
According to Özyavuz, the use of "secret evidence" violates Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to a fair trial.
Certain files in the alleged coup-plot case, which has recently seen the arrests of reporters Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık and the detention of other journalists, have been deemed subject to a "decision of restriction" that keeps them from being made available to the defense. The regulation is a part of Article 153 in the Criminal Procedure Code.
Violation of European convention
"If a secret decision is necessary, one could be made. However, the right to defense should not be subject to restriction," said Rıza Türmen, a former member of the European Court of Human Rights. "A defendant's lawyer should be able to see and inspect all necessary documents to prepare for the defense. Lawyers should also be able to examine the evidence files in order to raise objections to the pre-trial detention."
Saying that the European court's decisions on the matter are "very clear," Türmen said. Blocking defense lawyers from inspecting evidence at the questioning and deposition phase violates Articles 4 and 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which covers the right to raise objections to an arrest. Restrictions made later could violate the right to a fair trial and equal treatment for both the defense and the prosecution, Türmen said.
Ergenekon is an alleged ultranationalist shadowy gang accused of planning to topple the government by staging a coup, initially by spreading chaos and mayhem.
Lawyers noted, however, that there could be legitimate reasons for restricting evidence at different phases of an investigation. "Allowing a suspect or lawyer to have access to all evidence during the investigation process – the collection of evidence phase – could lead to the spoiling of evidence," Hakeri said. "In this case, a legitimate decision of restriction could be reached according to the criminal code of Turkey."
Precedents set by the European Court of Human Rights allow restriction decisions to be made "only if concrete incidents make it necessary," according to Professor Ersan Şen from the School of Law at Istanbul University.
"However, if the suspect has been taken into custody already, you cannot make restrictions only by mentioning the type of crime. You have to allow the defense counsel and the suspect access to the evidence for the arrest," Şen said. "In other words, you can hide evidence from the press or the public, but not from the suspect or the defense counsel."
According to Professor Metin Feyzioğlu, the president of the Ankara Bar Association, the European Court of Human Rights allows for a defendant to be subject to a decision of restriction for no more than 30 days. "Beyond that, according to the court, it is a serious violation of the right to a fair trial," Feyzioğlu said.
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT TO ESTABLISH FOLLOW-UP DELEGATION
The European Parliament has adopted a resolution on Turkey's progress toward joining the European Union, written by rapporteur Ria Oomen-Ruijten of the Netherlands. The parliament also decided to establish a delegation to follow the trial of journalists Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık, who were arrested as part of the Ergenekon probe.
FOREIGN MINISTRY: UNILATERAL REPORT
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said the European Parliament's report contained elements that contradicted reality and that could not be accepted. "We can see that a few members of parliament from certain countries have acted with internal political concerns at the risk of ignoring the European Union's interests," a Foreign Ministry statement read.
The European Parliament in its recent report on Turkey criticized Ankara. It said there was no progress in the "Balyoz" (Sledgehammer) and Ergenekon cases and expressed concern over the arrests of journalists. The report also said Turkey has not been able shed light on the killing of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.
KURDISH INTELLECTUALS' REACTION TO PKK
A group of Kurdish intellectuals has released a joint statement condemning the PKK terrorist organization's death threats against Şivan Perwer, Muhsin Kızılkaya and Mehmet Metiner. "We consider those death threats to be an assault against the freedom of thought. We invite Abdullah Öcalan and the leaders of the PKK and the KCK to step back from their decision," the joint statement read.
PROBLEM SOLVED WITH GREECE
The long-standing diplomatic problem between Turkey and Greece was resolved during a visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to Athens. Ahmet Davutoğlu and his Greek counterpart, Dimitris Droutsas, reached an agreement which says that Turkey will be able to purchase the building near its embassy in Athens and Greece will be able to construct a new building near its embassy in Ankara.
ISRAEL EXPRESSES 'FEAR AND HOPE' FOR A REGION IN TURMOIL
As uprisings against autocratic regimes continue across the Middle East, Israel waits for the dust to settle before adopting a drastic new foreign policy. Some in Israel remain hopeful about the new developments, while many express fears of radicalism. Experts, politicians and government officials see the region's future differently.
As popular uprisings take place across the Middle East, Israeli experts, government officials and politicians are patiently watching the events unfold. In recent interviews with the Daily News, many expressed both their concerns and their hopes for the future.
"Our greatest concerns are that radical elements, led by Iran, will take advantage of these revolutions that are led by the young," Daniel Ayalon, the deputy foreign minister of Israel told the Hürriyet Daily News in an e-mail exchange. "For these reasons, we will continue to closely monitor events unfolding in our region."
While the past months of turmoil in the Middle East have generally seen limited diplomatic involvement from Israel, Israeli experts and politicians have often responded with messages of concern, particularly with regards to fear over Islamist movements achieving a stronger role in shaping the politics of Arab nations. Although bipartisan splits are present, a broader consensus appears to shape the perception that Israel must continue to patiently monitor the developments before adopting drastic new policies.
"It's a waiting game, and while democracy should be welcomed, more radical elements could prove very dangerous for stability and the region," Ephraim Kam, deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv told the Daily News. "A domino effect could impact Syria and Iran, but the Egyptian leadership is still in limbo, which raises questions about whether the Muslim Brotherhood will gain control."
"The changes sweeping the Middle East are like a tsunami that has not yet come ashore," Kevin Rosner, a senior fellow at the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security in Washington D.C., told the Daily News. "It is the vast cache of unknowns that underscores the greatest Israeli concern." The main problems for Israel is the fact that the region still sees the country as an aggressive state, while most of these societies vying for change at home have actually not changed, according to Rosner.
Israeli politicians have expressed their fears that the recent uprisings will become "radically hijacked revolutions," drawing a line in the sand between what they perceive as democracy and "extremists."
"If the region becomes democratic then we will start sharing values and gain true respect for one another from a kinship of values," said Einat Wilf, an Israeli Parliamentarian for the Independence Party and member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "But if the revolutions are hijacked by extremists, we may very well find ourselves in a problematic Middle East," she said.
The fate of diplomatic agreements made between Israel and autocratic regimes in the region, especially 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, is of particular importance to Israel's foreign policy makers, who fear that relations will sour with Arab nations once stronger anti-Israeli voices are allowed to participate in new regimes.
Although Wilf confirmed that observers cannot rule out such serious changes, she notes that moves on the part of new regimes in the Middle East to threaten existing peace treaties would be done "at their own risk. They do so at their own peril, endangering financial support from the United States and breaking alliances with the West," she told the Daily News. Ayalon dismissed fears that a democratic Middle East would pose a greater threat to Israel, saying that those who are enemies of Israel maintain their views regardless of power shifts. "Many of those who attack Israel do so regardless of who is in power. Many of those who are hostile to Israel maintained their attacks regardless," he said. "We are concerned about a repetition of events like the ones seen in the Iranian revolution and the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, but in every series of events there are opportunities as well as challenges."
Other experts have expressed concern about certain Israeli attempts to exaggerating the fear of radicalism, adding that new regional changes could prove important for peace. "I'm sadly afraid that some settler communities and government groups in the Knesset are trying to push for extreme scenarios to benefit their own agenda," said Ron Pundak, director of the Peres Center for Peace.
Beyond the important fact that revolts in Egypt practically saw no anti-Israeli messages circulating, Pundak also observes that Arab countries also wish to find constructive solutions that can end over five decades of tension. "My assumption is that there are huge opportunities, but we need to move forward," he told the Daily News.