Turkey's main opposition: New judicial bill marks a step towards Sultanate
A controversial law approved by Parliament over the weekend turns the justice minister into a “Chief Qadi” for the country, as the law empowers him with extraordinary authority, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has suggested.
Speaking at a press conference at Parliament on Feb. 17, CHP Deputy Chair Faruk Loğoğlu said the law’s eventual aim was to “transform the state into a Sultanate.”
The law restructuring Turkey’s top judicial institution, the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), boosts government control over the appointment of judges and prosecutors.
Loğoğlu said it was wrong for the justice minister to be given such exceptional authority. “I wonder how we can define the capacity and duty of the justice minister under these conditions. It is not possible to describe him as a ‘justice minister.’ A person who has this much authority cannot be solely a minister. A lot of concepts have entered political culture in recent times, I suppose we need to call the justice minister the ‘Chief Qadi,’” he said, sarcastically.
A qadi is a judge in a Muslim community whose decisions are based on Islamic religious law, Sharia. The qadi, whose court is in charge of administering the Sharia law, is the judge of the facts, as well as the law. All Sharia courts were abolished in 1924, after the Republic of Turkey was established in 1923.
“During the Ottoman era, qadis used to make decisions on their own. Now, the justice minister has become the Chief Qadi. The Chief Qadi answers to the Sultan. The system is being reconstructed from top to bottom,” said Loğoğlu.
Meanwhile, another deputy leader of the CHP, Gürsel Tekin, called on President Abdullah Gül to veto the law regarding the HSYK, describing the situation as “a modern coup.”
Tekin recalled that he was criticized for saying Turkey was entering a “state of emergency” two months ago, and this time said Turkey was “not facing a state of emergency, but rather a modern coup,” and compared the situation to the high tension in the run-up to the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup d’état.
“I’m expecting more troubled days, particularly in March. I hope to be proven wrong,” he said.
At Parliament on the same day, CHP Deputy Chair Sezgin Tanrıkulu filed a motion for an inquiry into the government’s mass purge of public servants, which kicked off following the launching of a huge graft probe on Dec. 17. The probe involved the sons of three former ministers and businesspersons known to have been close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
Since the corruption scandal broke, the government has removed hundreds of prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in the investigations into alleged money laundering, gold smuggling and bribery.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused supporters of the Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who has been in voluntary exile in the United States for 15 years and who wields influence in the judiciary and police, of launching the probe as part of a “coup plot” against his government in a crucial election year.
But the purges, coupled with legislation aimed at increasing government control on the judiciary and Internet, have raised deep concern at home and abroad about the state of democracy in the country.