Constitutional Court Takes on Trial of Academics, What will Happen is Uncertain

Yazar / Referans: 
Tansu Pişkin, Bianet

Individual applications by Academics for Peace who were given prison terms have been sent to the General Assembly of The Constitutional Court. Meanwhile, the courts began to postpone ongoing trials to wait for the top court verdict.

The First Section of the Constitutional Court examined the individual applications of the academics who were given prison terms for "terrorist propaganda" for having signed the declaration titled, "We Will Not be a Party to This Crime" and sent the file to the General Assembly on July 3.

It is not clear when the General Assembly of the top court will put the applications on its agenda. It is under the authority of Zühtü Aslan, the presiding judge of the Constitutional Court.

If the General Assembly does not discuss the application before July 20, the beginning of the judicial holiday, the Academics for Peace will have to wait for the verdict that will establish a precedent until September 20.

The Academics for peace had made individual applications to the Constitutional court after they were given prison terms. The applications were combined at the top court. The court did not submit a notice to the attorneys, hence it is not known how many academics applied to the Constitutional Court.

The First Section made its first examination on the combined case on May 29. But this meeting was postponed on the grounds that the Ministry of Justice did not send an opinion to the court.

The Ministry submitted a nine-page opinion which includes verdicts on the definition and the extent of the freedom of expression to the Constitutional Court on June 25.

The First Section had a second meeting on the applications on July 3, discussing if the freedom of expression of the academics are violated. It decided to send the file to the General Assembly, stating the verdict that will be given will set a precedent for other Academics for Peace and for this reason the verdict should be made with the attendance of all members of the Constitutional Court.

Meanwhile, the trials of the academics are continuing at the İstanbul Courthouse. The defendants whose cases are not concluded yet have been requesting the courts to wait for the Constitutional Court verdict.

The 36th and the 13th Heavy Penal Courts accepted such requests, stating that the results of the applications to Constitutional Court will directly impact the trial. Trials of seven academics in these two courts were postponed.

The 37th and the 26th Heavy Penal Courts did not make a judgment directly on the requests but both gave extra time to defending lawyers and postponed the hearings.

Füsun Üstel, the only academic who was sent behind bars to this date in the trials of academics, had also made an application to the Constitutional Court.

How does the Constitutional Court work?

According to the internal regulations of the Constitutional Court, the "sections" are decision authorities formed by six members and headed by a deputy presiding judge. They make verdicts on the basis of simple majority.

The main duty of the sections is to examine the merits of the individual applications and make a judgment on them. They may send files to the General Assembly to "remove differences between verdicts that occurred and may possibly occur."

The General Assembly, which also makes verdicts with simple majority. It has 15 members and a quorum for meetings of 10.