Judge, prosecutor, wedding night: Checks and balances
Let’s start with checks and balances. First, I would like to present a piece for taste from my soon-to-be-published “The Book of Coups for the Curious”, sparing some names of the characters for the book. Then, we can start talking about a judge, a prosecutor, and a wedding ceremony.
It was the darkest days of the Sept. 12, 1980, military coup. One of the highest authorities of the coup went to the office of another general. He spoke of the fallacy of the general’s statement that said “all forces are under our control in unity”. He argued that such statements were fueling Western reactions against Turkey, at its democracy and human rights record was already under focus; the separation of forces was to be stressed instead.
The second putschist commander went directly to the coup leader Kenan Evren’s office. Couldn’t he see what was going on? The coup member he had appointed because he was a classmate was under leftist influence. The second putschist argued that he was trying to promote the separation of land, air, and naval forces. The discord between those forces had caused problems in the previous military interventions of 1960 and 1971.
Evren understood that one of his fellow putschists was speaking of checks and balances –the separation of executive, legislative and judicial powers– as the other one had no idea of these concepts and was simply speaking of the power relations between the military forces.
A judge from the US
The judge in question is not from Turkey, she is from the U.S. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of the 11 justices of the Supreme Court of the U.S., a court like the Constitutional Court in Turkey but with a more effective role in terms of checks and balances. She succumbed to cancer at the age of 87 on Sept. 18
The usually divided American people have been mourning her for days. She is considered a symbol of women’s rights as well as checks and balances and an independent judiciary. She was not hired as a lawyer because she was a woman in the racist and sexist U.S. of the 1950s. When she went to Sweden as part of a secondary job, she was introduced to the concepts of feminism, women’s rights, and gender equality. Then she started giving the Supreme Court a hard time as a lawyer. She won five out of the six high-profile women’s rights cases in the Supreme Court before eventually being appointed as a Supreme Court associate justice by U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1993. She was the second woman at the Supreme Court until then.
She lived a great life full of struggle and today a nation is mourning her. Donald Trump is under pressure to immediately appoint a female justice to replace her.
A prosecutor from Turkey
Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor Yüksel Kocaman caught public attention for his wedding with civil engineer Ayça Durmaz on Sept. 19.
Born in 1970, Kocaman was appointed as the Public Prosecutor of the Pınarhisar district of the northwestern province of Kırklareli as soon as he graduated from Ankara University. He met with today’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 1999 when the latter was jailed for four months at the Pınarhisar prison for reading out a poem in Siirt during his tenure as Istanbul mayor.
Kocaman’s professional career improve rapidly after 2003 when Erdoğan was elected as a lawmaker thanks to a Constitutional amendment with support from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal and became the prime minister of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. He rose in the Justice Ministry bureaucracy as an “investigative judge.”
He gained power at the Criminal Affairs, Personnel at Judicial Registry of the ministry, departments that Fethullah Gülenists were trying to influence after the Constitutional amendments in 2010. His knowledge of the appointments of judges, prosecutors, or high judicial members gave him the knowledge to maneuver when the conflict between Erdoğan and Gülen began in 2013. He became the Undersecretary of the Minister of Justice in 2014 and the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor in 2017 after the coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
Before the witnesses: Checks and balances
There is no doubt that Kocaman was one of the most influential figures in the liquidation of the members and sympathizers of the Fethullah Gülen organization in the judiciary after July 15, 2016. It is known that he is at odds with AKP old guard Bülent Arınç, who is still a member of the Presidential High Advisory Board, because of his objection to Arınç’s son-in-law Ekrem Yeter’s acquittal from the “FETÖ membership” investigation. Recently, he had become popular for not finalizing an indictment into Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ.
The marriage witnesses of the happily wed couple, their acceptance as guests at the official reception hall of the Presidency, and the gifts presented to them, inevitably attracted the attention of the press since this was not an ordinary event.
The list of wedding witnesses was long: Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, Education Minister Ziya Selçuk, Chief of General Staff Yaşar Güler, Court of Cassation head Mehmet Akarca, Council of State President Zeki Yiğit, Supreme Election Board President Muharrem Akkaya, Head of the 1st Department of the Council of Judges and Prosecutors Halil Koç, Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) chair Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu and Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) President Metin Feyzioğlu.
“A Wedding Night”
“A Wedding Night” is the best-known novel by Turkish author Adalet Ağaoğlu, who passed away on July 14, 2020. It is a great novel that brings together people with different or even opposing views from the army, politics and business worlds, with the March 12, 1971 coup in background.
There are a few features that distinguish Chief Prosecutor Kocaman’s marriage ceremony from the scene in Ağaoğlu’s novel.
First, the novel is about the alliances formed after the 12 March coup through human relations.
Secondly, the plot of that novel includes people rather from the military, politics, and business world, not the judiciary.
Third, despite the alliance, the attendees to the wedding in the novel confront each other.
Kocaman’s wedding witnesses stand in line, there is no split of opinion between them.
When it comes to checks and balances, unlike the Sept. 12 coup generals, we do not understand the separation of the powers of the land, sea, and air forces, but the executive, legislative, and judicial bodies.
We can rely on our independent and impartial judgment, right?
Still, there’s something I’ve been wondering: Will the country ever mourn a judiciary member as the U.S. people did? What would you think?