Greek judges to school Turks

Greece committed itself yesterday to helping Turkey fulfill one of the criteria it must meet before joining the EU – by agreeing to start training Turkish judges in European law before year’s end. Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras and his Turkish counterpart Cemil Cisek signed an agreement in Athens yesterday by which Greek legal experts from the National College of Judges will pass on their knowledge of the implementation of EU law to Turkish justices. Cisek’s visit to Greece was the first by a Turkish justice minister in over 30 years, Papaligouras said. «The Justice Ministry… is ready to supply Turkey with all the necessary knowledge and information… which will bring a friend and neighbor closer to the big, democratic European family,» said Papaligouras. The first training program will begin in November. Turkey is due to begin EU accession talks in October and Brussels has demanded that Ankara complete substantial reforms to its judicial system as part of the membership process. The two ministers also agreed to have their departments work more closely in the future. The deal may help improve the image of the Greek judiciary, which has taken a battering recently in the wake of a trial-fixing scandal. Nine judges, three lawyers and a court clerk were charged last week with a range of criminal and misdemeanor offenses linked to the scandal. Papaligouras said that Cisek also responded positively to a suggestion that Turkish prisoners serving time in Greek jails could be sent back to Turkey to see out their sentences. The government has been holding similar talks with Albania over prisoner transfers to relieve overcrowding. There are over 9,500 inmates serving time in Greek jails – which ostensibly have a maximum capacity of 5,000 prisoners – and some 42 percent of inmates are foreigners. Cooperation between Ankara and the Greek Ombudsman has already begun, with the aim of setting up a Turkish version of the citizens’ rights body, Papaligouras added.

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