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Renowned legal expert calls on Erdoğan to ‘return to the rule of law’

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Prof. Dr. İzzet Özgenç, a legal expert known to have close ties to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has advised him in an open letter to “return to the rule of law” in order to eliminate or at least reduce the grievances caused by wrongdoings in the field of law in Turkey during his rule.

Özgenç, a professor of criminal law and one of the authors of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), on Saturday posted the letter on Twitter, saying his acquaintance with Erdoğan went back to 1994 and that he has always tried to take “a stance that prioritizes the law” in his relationship with the president.

“… I must point out that although I have reported the mistakes I saw in the field of law in Turkey, especially regarding certain investigations and proceedings, to the relevant public authorities, to you, first of all, my efforts haven’t yielded any results and certain mistakes have persisted. … They’re no longer sustainable,” Özgenç said, without giving any details about the cases.

The law expert underlined that it was “inevitable” to return to the rule of law to eliminate or at least reduce the grievances caused by those wrongdoings, which are “impossible to atone for with more wrongdoings.”

Özgenç further said that returning to the rule of law was the “first condition” for solving the problems Turkey had been experiencing in international relations, especially due to certain investigations and proceedings, and even in the financial sector.

Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have been the subjects of harsh criticism in Turkey and the international community due to gross human rights violations taking place in the country, especially after a failed coup on July 15, 2016.

In the aftermath of the attempted coup in Turkey, Erdoğan launched a massive crackdown on non-loyalist citizens under the pretext of an anti-coup fight, which led to the prosecution of tens of thousands of people on trumped-up terrorism or coup charges.

The Turkish government also drew condemnation in the international community for failing to release Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş and philanthropist Osman Kavala from jail.

Demirtaş was co-chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) when he was arrested in November 2016. He has been behind bars since then despite the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruling in November 2018 that Demirtaş’s pre-trial detention was political and ordering his release. Turkish courts refused to implement the ruling, and a regional appeals court in Turkey subsequently upheld a prison sentence handed down to Demirtaş for disseminating terrorist propaganda.

Kavala, who has yet to be convicted by a court, has been in prison since 2017. Turkey and several Western countries barely avoided a diplomatic crisis after 10 ambassadors released a statement in October calling for Kavala’s release on the fourth anniversary of his arrest.


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