The decision for the releases was made by a temporary judge, covering for the main judge, who was on leave at the time. According to claims, the temporary judge examined the corruption probe files in one hour and decided to release the suspects.
The court said there was no possibility that the remaining suspects would flee or tamper with evidence, adding that the evidence collected in the investigation had been collected by intercepting and recording conversations between the suspects. Such evidence, the court said, cannot be considered substantive proof unless it is supported by corroborating evidence.
However, some prominent legal experts said the court ignored concrete evidence, suggesting the suspects’ hand in unlawful activities, including large sums of money concealed in the houses of the suspects as well as money safes.
According to retired public prosecutor Mete Göktürk, the court should not have made such a hasty decision to release the suspects in a case that people are following so closely. “The hasty decision has created suspicion in people’s minds,” he said, adding that the reasons the court pointed to when releasing the suspects were not sound enough to get their releases. “Records of phone conversations as well as technical surveillance of the suspects and money seized from their houses are concrete of evidence of crime,” he said. “There was adequate evidence to arrest the suspects, and I do not find their releases a right decision. The investigation is still going on. Things may change,” Göktürk added.
Retired public prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals Ahmet Gündel said the government’s unceasing interference in the investigation from the very beginning has made the probe controversial. “The court may have made the right decision with the releases, but people criticize the releases as the government has openly put pressure on the judiciary [to change the course of the investigation.] People say the [temporary] judge did not duly examine the corruption investigation files and even if they are not right, questions still persist in people’s minds. They are right. Because they government has interfered for several times in this investigation,” he noted.
Lawyer Bilal Çalışır agreed that the court ignored concrete evidence of crime when deciding to release the graft suspects. “Money safes and banknote counters seized [by the police] from the house of [former Interior Minister] Muammer Güler’s son, Bilal Güler, support the evidence [of corruption] collected by the prosecutors as part of the wiretapping of suspects’ phone conversations. In addition, money transfers allegedly made by Reza Zarrab support similar evidence,” he said, adding that the court did not pay attention to these pieces of evidence when releasing the five suspects on Feb. 28.