'We weren't there to be slapped': Reactions to the critical speech of top judge
Bekir Bozdağ, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, has said after his April 25 statement in the Parliament that he spoke as Turkey's Justice MinisterThe government harshly responded to the top judge’s heavily critical statements on April 25 and accused him of acting with political, motives, seeing the Constitutional Court as “optional power” above the government and Parliament.
“The statements from the head of the Constitutional Court show that Turkey has a new opposition. The existing oppositional parties could not fill the vacuum. It seems that the head of the Constitutional Court is intending to fill this vacuum. Good luck with it to opposition parties,” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said in his counter-statement to Haşim Kılıç, the head of the top court who slammed the government in an unprecedented way early on April 25 during the 52nd anniversary of the court.
President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, parliamentary speaker Cemil Çiçek, Justice Minister Bozdağ and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu were present at the ceremony. Among the attendees, Çiçek and Bozdağ criticized Kılıç’s remarks and said they found them “highly political.”
“The manner did not befit the [head of the] judiciary. No one was there to be scolded or slapped,” Çiçek told reporters, adding that expressions such as “changing shirts” were politically charged. “These are not appropriate words to use on the foundation day of the high court, even if these are your personal opinions,” he said.
Çiçek said special days of key judicial institutions where top judges deliver speeches have recently turned into opportunities to attack the government, politics in general and that they witnessed another attack on April 25. “I feel sorrow regarding the situation. First of all, it was not a right manner befit to the court,” he said. “The law is politeness. Men of the law should speak in a very polite way. I should say that we, unfortunately, did not witness that today.”
The first reaction from the government came from Bozdağ, who read a written statement criticizing Kılıç’s address and his manner towards his invitees. Claiming Kılıç’s blistering speech was “not courteous,” Bozdağ said:
“The legal notion of the speech was weak. It was full of political polemics, from start to finish. Political polemics should be made by the representatives of political parties, not the head of the Constitutional Court, which should actually speak with its rulings. The head of the court shouldn’t question the authority of our Parliament. The nation will keep protecting its will with determination.”
Dismissing Kılıç’s claims of being defamed by government officials, Bozdağ said criticisms were not made toward the personalities of the members of the court. “Court verdicts are not sacred things that cannot be criticized,” he said. Accusing the head of the court for placing the top court above the government and Parliament as an optional source of power, Bozdağ urged the top judge to remain within his authority as described by the Constitution.
Bozdağ blamed Kılıç of imposing tutelage over the executive and legislative and expressed the government’s determinacy in not allowing anyone to use the judiciary as their backyard. “Mr. Head of the Court criticized every one and every institution except his court. He wanted to depict the Constitutional Court as the trouble shooting body in the cases where executive and legislative powers fail to solve problems. He also criticized primary law institutions, the Council of State, as well as the Supreme Court of Appeals. The Constitutional Court is not a super appeal institution as the head of the court is depicting,” he said.
When asked if the government was inviting Kılıç to resign during the press conference, Bozdağ said: “I didn’t make such a call. It’s his decision. As far as I know, he has 10 months left in his term before his retirement.”
Bozdağ added he might be in search of something for his retirement period, but dismissed questions whether it could be related to Kılıç’s potential candidacy to the presidency.
“These things cannot be done while wearing judge’s robes. If he wants, he can take [his judge’s robes] off and engage in politics,” AKP Deputy Head Mustafa Şentop told reporters on April 25.
Şentop also described Kılıç’s assessments on the importance of the rule of law as “shallow and inappropriate.”
Kılıç will be lynched: MHP
Opposition parties, however, welcomed Kılıç’s statement.
“The head of the Constitutional Court did not take his judge’s robes off, but he lectured the government with them,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Head Engin Altay said.
Altay added that the statement was a “cry against those who attacked the judiciary” and accused the government of being the main source undermining the principle of the rule of law and the separation of powers. He also stressed that Kılıç drew attention to the potential for anarchy to flare up on the streets and within the state in the absence of the rule of law.
Meanwhile, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Ankara Deputy Özcan Yeniçeri suggested that the government would now launch a lynch campaign against Kılıç and would target the Constitutional Court as part of what it describes as the “parallel state.”
Describing Kılıç’s remarks as “right and consistent,” Yeniçeri accused Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of degrading the judiciary’s trust in the eyes of the people.
“If you remove justice, then you destroy the state. It should be the government that should pay utmost care to justice,” he said.
Selahattin Demirtaş, co-chairperson of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), also welcomed Kılıç’s words. “The head of the Constitutional Court has said what he should say. The main problem, however, is the accusations made by Erdoğan against the Court,” Demirtaş said.