ISTANBUL BLOG: Veteran courthouse reporter reveals Turkish judiciary’s bribe tariff

ISTANBUL BLOG: Veteran courthouse reporter reveals Turkish judiciary’s bribe tariff
Hold your nose. Critics will point to the courthouse scandal as another example of how the stench of corruption flourishing within the Erdogan regime is overpowering. / Diken
By Akin Nazli in Belgrade October 20, 2023

A defendant seeking a Turkish court decision for their release should bring along at least Turkish lira (TRY) 0.5mn ($17,850) in cash. It doesn’t get cheaper than that anymore.

That’s the claim of veteran courthouse reporter Gokcer Tahincioglu, who on local news portal T24 this week gave details of the “bribe tariff” that prevails among the Turkish judiciary. In the corridors of Turkey’s courts, the tariff is an open secret, says the correspondent.

Tahincioglu’s column was headlined “Decay: Clean hands move at the judiciary or power play?”, referring to how an apparent move to address the corruption may in reality have only eventuated because of a big fight under way between the various interest groups and gangs connected to the judges who run the bribe taking.

Other going rates under the tariff are said to be around TRY 0.1-0.2mn for a ruling that bans access to a news story or social media post that you do not like and TRY 0.1-0.15mn for the lifting of a decision of judicial control. The cost of lifting a ban on leaving the country apparently exceeds TRY 0.5mn.

Those looking to use the tariff go to the “commissioned” lawyers at the courthouses who, if you hire them, will conduct the bribe operation on your behalf. Given the volatility of the lira, those paying bribes are advised to remember the going rate for the USD while negotiating their deal.

Tahincioglu revealed the bribe tariff after Timur Soykan, a long-time police and courthouse reporter, sparked the latest discussions (or perhaps we should call them requiems) on the state of the Turkish judiciary.

On October 6, Soykan published a letter sent by Istanbul Anatolian Chief Public Prosecutor Ismail Ucar to the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK).

Soykan’s story, and thus Ucar’s letter, was subsequently hit with an access ban, though justice minister Yilmaz Tunc (@yilmaztunc), a new cabinet figure appointed in June, confirmed that the chief public prosecutor’s office at the Istanbul Anatolia courthouse, also referred to as the Kartal courthouse, had sent an advisory letter to the HSYK.

Screenshots: Tunc’s tweet and some replies from Turkish citizens.

In his letter, Ucar described how judges take the bribes on offer, have released drug smugglers and have even formed some of the gangs that operate within the judiciary. The judges have, he affirmed, issued orders for release and blocked access to media stories in exchange for money.

One judge is said to have released defendants arrested with 125 kilograms of methamphetamine and cocaine in Istanbul. The same judge is accused of freeing a defendant who was heading for trial on the alleged robbery of €1.5mn in cash.

Ucar recapped on how the number of judges and prosecutors shrank after the July 2016 coup attempt against the Erdogan administration (the Gulenists, who were once loyal placements of the regime, were jailed or fled). Given the thinner ranks, the quality of the judicial personnel overall inevitably fell and public trust in the judiciary declined, Ucar also observed.

Some prosecutors and judges have become involved in even “dirtier relations than the former Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation (FETO) members”, according to Ucar, using the regime’s FETO moniker for the Gulenist movement.

On October 17, petitions sent to the HSYK by judges accused by Ucar of wrongdoing were published as members of the judiciary sought to clear their names.

Observers see this latest mess as set to amount to no more than a new round of the judiciary gangs scrapping and jockeying for position, advised Tahincioglu.