Quarrel erupts during draft bill debate as CHP deputies cite life risks
ANKARAA quarrel has erupted between deputies from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) during a parliamentary justice committee meeting over a controversial judicial reform package, as opposition deputies accused the justice minister of taking aim at them by circulating false news about their visits to convicted militants.
The brawl initiated during the discussions of a draft bill which drew widespread criticism from all segments of the opposition for rendering President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan the first-ever president to assign one-fourth of a high court.
The 38 article-draft that would restructure the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State was recently introduced by the AKP to the parliament speaker’s office with plans to have it passed before parliament goes to recess at the end of June.
During the committee meeting, CHP deputies questioned Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ over leaflets which were dropped in numerous box offices across Ankara overnight and provided a list of main opposition deputies who visited imprisoned militants as part of a Parliamentary Monitoring Committee on Human Rights. The visit included deputies from all political parties represented in parliament, including the AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), but the leaflets only included the names of main opposition deputies.
The distribution came amid intimidating protests targeting CHP chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for his remarks on private broadcaster CNN Türk on visiting outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) convicts as part of the monitoring committee.
“CHP members receive death threats in all parts of the country. This is shameful! Explain all of this,” the party’s deputy chair, Veli Ağbaba, yelled at Bozdağ, just days after a bullet shell was thrown at Kılıçdaroğlu during a funeral for two police officers killed in a June 7 attack in Istanbul’s Vezneciler neighborhood.
Ağbaba said the secretive approach towards the remaining deputies who visited convicts put CHP members at risk, while Bozdağ yelled back saying, “Everything said about you [Ağbaba], name by name, is correct.”
CHP group deputy chairperson Levent Gök also slammed Bozdağ, saying he would be deemed responsible for any attack targeting a CHP member of parliament.
“If anything happens to one of our deputies, you are responsible. You cannot escape this. Leaflets have been distributed across Ankara since last night. How can you put people under such risk?” Gök screamed, while Bozdağ said he wasn’t doing anything to put people at risk, that the distribution of pamphlets was “wrong.”
“Some information came out. It is evident that some of this information was somehow leaked from the ministry,” Bozdağ admitted. “Hand me a written parliamentary inquiry and I can provide you with this information. This is personal information, I will not announce it without people’s permission,” he added.
Erdoğan also expressed his opinions on visits by the parliamentary monitoring committee on June 11, saying Kılıçdaroğlu’s statements were “misunderstood” and led to provocations.
“I also listened to his statements on TV,” Erdoğan said. “His statements would have been softer if he could have better conveyed that what he meant by ‘We visit PKK convicts and DHKP-C convicts,’ were visits by members of a parliamentary human rights commission on prisons,” the president added.
“When he said they visit as a political party, then his statements were used as a provocation,” he said.
Meanwhile, justice committee chair Ahmet İyimaya announced a recess amid rising tensions, which led to a faceoff between Bozdağ and CHP Istanbul deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu.
AKP members intervened in the dispute, which later evolved into a quarrel.
The committee meetings were expected to be tense, as the draft bill caused irritation in the high judiciary and within the opposition parties.
Kılıçdaroğlu called for a total struggle against the bill on June 15, saying the structural change of the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State is “equal to a change of the layout of Turkey.”
“This package would pave the way to all kinds of unlawfulness. If this passes into law, then there will be no media, no institution of politics and no MPs left in Turkey. From that point and on, it will be possible to engage in all kinds of unlawfulness. It’s not just our parliamentary group, but bar unions, legists, all women’s associations and the business world should altogether object to this package,” Kılıçdaroğlu was quoted as saying at the MYK meeting by sources from the party.
“After this regulation, everyone who isn’t a partisan [of the government] will perish. Our friends should react to this matter instead of the [lifting of the legislative] immunity issue because this is a far more important matter,” he said.
“The target isn’t ‘the parallel structure;’ the target is everyone who is not like them, including the MHP [the Nationalist Movement Party], the HDP [the Peoples’ Democratic Party] and the CHP. All political parties should object to this matter in unison. Even members of the AKP [Justice and Development Party] should object to this,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
According to the draft, the number of chambers in the Supreme Court of Appeals will be reduced from 46 to 24, while the number of members of the same court will be reduced from 516 to 200. Likewise, the number of Council of State chambers will be reduced from 17 to 10 as the number of members in the court is reduced from 195 to 90.
The new members of the Council of State will be selected from among those whose memberships have ended, according to their relevancy, by the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) or the president within five days after the law goes into effect. According to the constitution, one-fourth of the members of the Council of State are selected by the president
The number of council members will be fixed at 116 on the date the law goes into force. The president will make his choices from among the 96 members that are currently serving – except for the current president, chief prosecutor, deputy president and chiefs of the 17 chambers.
Erdoğan will directly select one-fourth of those members – or 24 members of the restructured council. These members will serve on the council for 12 years.
According to the draft, members who were previously elected to the Council of State by the presidency can be reelected by the president himself. If these members are not reelected by the president, then they will have the right to choose a new appointment, including in the administrative jurisdiction if they so desire, or return to the civil service based on certain conditions.