Key regulations become battleground as gov't moves to control judiciary
ANKARAA new regulation has dramatically increased the power of justice minister over Turkey's top judicial body, while a top court has overturned a previous change to another key regulation that the Turkish government passed to counter the massive graft probe late last year.
The new regulation in the working of the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) was published in the Official Gazette on Dec. 12. The amendments grant the justice minister the authority to preside over the HSYK and set the agenda, date and location of its annual General Assembly.
One of the key functions of the HSYK's General Assembly is to elect members of the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State. According to the new regulation, all nominated judges and prosecutors will have to be approved by the justice minister.
Another of the amendments ensures that the justice minister will be the sole authority who can release statements to the media regarding HSYK meetings.
Meanwhile, in another development in the Turkish judiciary, the Council of State overturned key changes to the judicial police regulation passed by the government following the Dec. 17 graft probe last year, daily Cumhuriyet reported on Dec. 13.
The ruling of the court's 10th Chamber issued on Oct. 22 describes the amendment as "unlawful." The court also issued a stay of execution order for all regulatory changes adopted last year.
The Dec. 17 graft probe had targeted the inner circle of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, including four government ministers. The government describes the operation as "a coup plot" organized by the followers of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen inside the police and the judiciary. Since then, the government managed to tighten its grip through a series of moves, including legal amendments and judiciary elections, which ended with the victory of the candidates who are widely regarded as close to government circles.
The overturned amendments in the regulation of the judicial police were hastily prepared four days after the Dec. 17 graft probe. As a result, prosecutors of the graft probe were forced to report to their chiefs before making decisions regarding confidential probes. The Dec. 25 probe was exposed due to these regulatory amendments.