Turkey’s Top Court Head: Nearly 7 Million Are Suspects, Facing Probe

Nearly 7 million citizens have been treated as suspects and have faced investigations in Turkey,  Supreme Court head said late last week, revealing the scale of legal proceedings that target government’s opponents.

Speaking at a law symposium at Okan University in Istanbul on Thursday, Ismail Rustu Cirit said there were nearly 6.9 million suspects in our 80-million country, according to 2016 judicial records.

“It means that 8 percent of Turkey’s population appeared as suspects, being subject to first-instance investigations,” he stated.

Of those figures, prosecutors decided to drop investigations into 2.9 million citizens after review of their cases. No further legal proceedings needed, so charges were dropped, he noted.

Investigations into 800,000 people were halted due to lack of jurisdiction, decision of non-prosecution, dismissal of charges and other factors. Nearly 2,5 million people are being tried in courts, according to 2016 official stats. Of those 2,5 million who faced detailed investigation and court trial, at least 1 million defendants received different sorts of prison sentences, fines, sentence suspension and other forms of punishments, he stated.

The official statistics reveal that Turkey’s judiciary is smothered by a backlog of millions of cases. He lamented about caseloads that dogged courts, suggesting a hard slog ahead for the judiciary.

Supreme Court head clamored for the rollout of an all-embracing judicial reform to reduce the number of cases, a burden that crippled Turkey’s judicial system. Still, his endorsement of the government purge in bureaucracy gives pause for optimism.

The post-coup crackdown and purge had a chilling effect on judiciary after arrests of more than 3,000 judges and prosecutors. Around 150,000 public workers have been sacked, while 50,000 people placed in pre-trial detention without due process.

According to observers, the new, widely-politicized legal landscape has already put a chill on the integrity of investigations amid rampant claims of political witch-hunt and mistreatment of detainees in prison.

Mr. Cirit’s public acknowledgment of staggering numbers of investigations only reveals the colossal scale of proceedings taking place in Turkey against own citizens, while undermining the central pillars of Turkey’s criminal justice system.

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