Courts Become a Battleground in Fight Over Identity of the Turkish State

Courts Become a Battleground in Fight Over Identity of the Turkish State

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Sultanahmet courthouse, in the heart of medieval Istanbul, is a drab 1960s building, with the pedestrian look of a place where unexceptional bureaucratic business is conducted. The courtroom, with its peeling gray walls, looks like a dusty schoolroom. But the courthouse's unremarkable appearance belies the importance of the decisions being weighed there.

It was there, in May, that members of a leading Islamist creationist organization, the Science Research Foundation (SRF), were sentenced to three years in prison on charges of engaging in illegal threats and creating a criminal organization. The protracted trial, bookended by the 1998 banning of one Islamist party, the Welfare Party, and an imminent decision on the possible banning of another, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), has caused a considerable stir. While the six indicted SRF members await the appeal process in the Turkish courts, they are looking to the European Court of Human Rights to carry on their fight.

Resurrected in April after having lain dormant for over two years, the case is now being portrayed in some quarters as part of a witch hunt against prominent Islamic organizations by the country's secular elite. "This case should be finished. This is a case where the evidence was collected unlawfully and should not be used," argued Fabio Galiani, an international criminal defense lawyer, who stood outside the courtroom awaiting a verdict on the trial he had been following for eight years. "Furthermore, there was already a decision which should close the case," he added, referring to allegations about the use of torture to gather evidence and the application of a law that was not in force when the crimes were allegedly committed.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.