How will Constitutional Court react to Alpay-Altan crisis?
The highest legal authority, the Constitutional Court, is maintaining its silence over the local courts’ defiance and accusations emanating from ruling circles. The supreme court is inclined to speed up procedures for promulgation of the Altan, Alpay and Günay rulings in the Official Gazette rather than retort over its being flouted.
Following the dismissal by the local courts of the applications for release in respect of Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay, despite the Constitutional Court’s rights violation ruling, eyes have turned back to the supreme court. Sources, indicating that the Constitutional Court, which is maintaining its silence, will speed up procedures for promulgation of the ruling in the Official Gazette, even though this is not a statutory requirement, say, “Courts speak through their rulings. Hence, it cannot make an announcement. But Constitutional Court rulings are binding on everyone and there is nothing that can be done apart from this.”
The Constitutional Court, which passed a rights violation ruling in the applications it examined last week of Cumhuriyet Book Supplement Editor Turhan Günay and journalists Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan, opened the way for Altan and Alpay’s release. However, the first-instance trial courts dismissed the release order, citing, initially, the reasoned decision not having been promulgated in the Official Gazette and, subsequently, the existence of fresh evidence. After the senior courts with which objections to the dismissal decision were lodged rejected the release applications, making recourse to the Official Gazette pretext, the course of action that the Constitutional Court will now follow is awaited with interest.
From what has been gleaned, the word is that Constitutional Court Presiding Judge Zühtü Aslan, who himself also voted that there had been a rights violation in the said cases, will engage in absolutely no polemics in this process with either the first-instance courts or ruling circles. Constitutional Court sources, pointing out that, in line with his general predisposition, Aslan is not in a position to reply to criticism over the rulings that were passed, venture the opinion, “The presiding judge has, ever since he took over the post, been informed by the approach, ‘We speak through our rulings.’ This approach has been maintained unaltered over the latest cases.”
Sources, recalling that the Constitutional Court also came in for harsh criticism from the government and president over the Erdem Gül-Can Dündar rulings, recall comments made by Presiding Judge Aslan in response to the criticism on anniversaries of the supreme court’s founding and the Constitutional Court’s own meetings. Sources stress that, even though the first-instance courts’ non-compliance with the Constitutional Court ruling is a “first”, the constitutional rule that Constitutional Court decisions are binding on everyone retains its force. The thinking over this situation that is being experienced for the first time is that the courts in question have committed the “offence of breach of the constitution” and all responsibility for this will be borne by them.
Strasbourg on the agenda
Aslan is not expected to comment on this matter as he has no engagements open to the public in the near future. However, Aslan will go to Strasbourg next week to participate in the European Court of Human Rights year-end statistical data meeting. It is noted that the Constitutional Court’s latest ruling and the local court’s demeanour will be raised at the meetings.
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