AKP, CHP in bitter row over Turkey’s ‘politicized judiciary’
ANKARAThe ruling and main opposition parties have locked horns in a fresh row after the latter blasted the abandonment of impartiality in Turkey’s justice system under government pressure and described the election watchdog as a “criminal gang.”
Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu slammed “dishonorable” judges “who issue verdicts according to the instructions of one man,” referring to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“A gang within the YSK [Supreme Election Board] has plotted a conspiracy. They have filed a criminal complaint about me just because I called them a gang. But they have indeed formed a gang in the YSK. If a group of people come together to commit a crime, they are called a gang. It is simple,” Kılıçdaroğlu said at his party’s group meeting on May 9.
“A man who has buckled under the sovereign power cannot be called a judge. He is only called a dishonorable man,” he added.
The CHP has criticized the YSK for changing the rules during voting in the April 16 referendum, deciding to count unstamped ballot papers as valid even though the law does not allow it.
Bozdağ responds to CHP head
A response to Kılıçdaroğlu came swiftly from Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, who claimed his words amounted to a criminal offense.
“The CHP leader’s words about YSK members being a ‘gang’ of ‘conspirators’ who ‘sell their honor and pride’ and who ‘buckle under pressure’ amount to a clear criminal offense,” Bozdağ posted on his official Twitter account on May 9.
“I condemn the CHP leader for his unjust, disrespectful, unethical and unlawful comments against the YSK members,” he added.
“He thinks that if he attacks the YSK members in such a way he will be able to cover up his failure and solve his intra-party dispute. But he is wrong. Everybody in the CHP knows that the YSK fulfilled its duty and its members are honorable people,” Bozdağ added.
Kılıçdaroğlu also stated that CHP deputies have conducted investigations into recently appointed judges, finding that the vast majority are affiliated in some way with the AKP. Among the new judges appointed after the most recent entrance exam are candidates who stood for the AKP in the June 7, 2015 general election, as well as AKP provincial heads and women’s branch leaders.
“I’m calling out to the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors: If you want to protect the prestige of the judiciary, and if you are doing an honorable job, you will not allow this to happen,” he said.
Kılıçdaroğlu also said the politicization of the judiciary is reflected in rulings concerning the release of terminally ill prisoners.
“Currently there are 841 terminally ill or permanently sick people in prison waiting to die. Why are they not released? In the past five years alone, some 451 people have died in prison because they were not released despite their sickness. Is this moral?” he said.
“If a judge makes decision based on the suspect’s identity and political history, then they cannot actually be a proper judge,” he added, giving examples of the prisoners who have either died or waiting for a release in Turkish prisons.
Kılıçdaroğlu also noted that the government had put on hold the release of a report by the European Committee on Torture and Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) in order to hide poor prison conditions.
The CHP head specifically referred to two dismissed educators, Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, who have been on hunger strike for 63 days, demanding to be given back their jobs.
“They have dismissed a lot of people from their jobs with decree laws. There are judges, prosecutors, and academics. Two of our young friends are now on a hunger strike. I am here saluting them with respect and love,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
Gülmen and Özakça started a sit-in protest in November 2016 after they were dismissed by decree laws issued after the July 15 coup attempt. They subsequently started a hunger strike after being arrested by police for staging the protest.