Judges and prosecutors loudly applauded Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on March 19 at a judiciary draw ceremony at the presidential palace complex in capital Ankara, showing the dependency of the judiciary in the country.
Waiting for their judiciary draws, Turkey’s new judges and prosecutors responded with a lively ovation as Erdoğan’s name was announced at the hall. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül also attended the ceremony.
Erdoğan said that the judiciary institutions could not be purged completely from the FETÖ members, the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen’s network that was behind the failed coup in 2016. However, Gülenists had been placed in state apparatus and the judiciary system during the alliance of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Gülen’s network particularly after 2007.
soL talked with Lawyer Başar Yaltı and Mustafa Karadağ, the former head of the Union of Judges. “Independency, impartiality and efficiency are key factors for judiciary and judges,” Yaltı said.
‘JUDICIARY SYSTEM MUST BE INDEPENDENT’
Arguing that the judiciary system must be independent and make decisions without receiving orders from anyone in accordance to the principle of separation of powers, Yaltı added:
“The judiciary was purged of FETÖ, but now it is in the hands of the AKP. The ceremony at the palace shows this situation. Today, the president is also the chairperson of the party. The ceremony at the palace means that it is held at the headquarters of the AKP.”
Yaltı said that most of the courts in Turkey reach decisions in pursuance of the AKP’s point of view, which eliminates the independency of the judiciary system, adding that even the courts do not implement the decisions of the Constitutional Court with the fear of Erdoğan’s palace.
Mustafa Karadağ, the former head of the Union of Judges, indicated to a European Commission report on the judges in Turkey. “Here it says the judges should be trained with a critical soul. The term ‘critical’ here refers to the independency and impartiality of the judges from the execution,” Karadağ noted.
‘JUDICIARY CEREMONY AT ERDOĞAN’S PALACE IS A MESSAGE’
Karadağ underlined that judges and prosecutors cannot be employed without a letter of reference from the AKP party. “The ceremony at the palace is a message saying ‘Do not forget that the dominant power in Turkey is the palace, not the parliament’, Karadağ said, adding that the palace was intentionally chosen as a ceremony hall in order to impose the new judges and prosecutors that the laws are implemented in accordance to Erdoğan’s palace.
Resorting to a demagogical discourse in the name of “judicial reforms” since 2002 when Erdoğan’s AKP party came into power, the government has dealt a fatal blow to the judiciary system particularly with the critical constitutional referendum in 2010 supported by the AKP-Gülenists-liberals trio alliance.
As the Gülen-AKP alliance collapsed due to inner conflicts and divergences which eventually culminated in a coup attempt by some actors including the Gülenists, thousands of judges and prosecutors were purged because of their links to the Gülenist network. While Erdoğan plans to win the presidential election in 2019 as the sole head of the state and government, his AKP party has increasingly designated the judiciary system as a completely dependent institution on Erdoğan’s palace in Ankara.