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Turkey: For the Greener Good
Its no secret that I love most things Turkish. And that I'm a pretty committed environmentalist. So a report this week from The Eurasia Daily Monitor caught my eye. It talks about a series of free speech setbacks that are overshadowing some much needed reforms. But its the last couple of paragraphs tucked in at the end that got me thinking.
Judges in Turkey apparently have a great deal of discretion when determining sentences for minor crimes, and one judge is using that authority for the greener good. According to the report, Tamer Demirsoy, a judge in the capital city of Ankara, has sentenced over 150 convicted defendants to plant a total of 20,000 trees. "Global warming poses a serious threat to Turkey," he told the local periodical Radikal. "The most serious effect is drought. I am trying to use the authority granted me by law to contribute to expanding green areas."
Maybe the discretion given to Turkish judges is akin to our system of community service sentencing. But from the article it sounds like the judge can actually order the defendant to a particular placement, unlike the US where defendants can choose among a list of pre-approved charitable organizations. If the Turkish system works how I described, I'd like to know whether there are any controls on the judge's discretion. Environmentalism may be sufficiently non-partisan in Turkey, but how about a drug rehab program? An art museum that features contemporary nudes? Such placements might not raise as many an eyebrow here as they would there, where they'd in fact be quite controversial. But if the choice is between prison time, a fine or community service, for some defendants its really not a choice at all. Another concern would arise if forced placements were made in exchange for the Turkish equivalent of a nolo contendre plea where there is no finding of guilt.
What are the chances we have a loyal reader who can offer insight into the Turkish sentencing system . . .
-Kathleen A. Bergin
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