Despite outcry, Turkish government rekindles judiciary bill

Despite outcry, Turkish government rekindles judiciary bill

Despite outcry, Turkish government rekindles judiciary bill

AKP's deputy parliamentary group leader of the Mustafa Elitaş, confirmed to reporters that the controversial HSYK bill would be reintroduced. DHA photo

The government is considering reintroducing a controversial law reshaping the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) despite strong internal and external criticism, after some HSYK members reportedly blocked a judicial overhaul by skipping meetings.

The deputy parliamentary group leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Mustafa Elitaş, confirmed to reporters that the HSYK bill would be reintroduced to the Parliament today. 

The government froze the legislation process on the controversial HSYK bill last month following strong reaction from opposition parties and the European Union on the grounds that it threatened judicial independence. The government’s insistence on amending the HSYK came after the board could not meet due to a lack of quorum. The 22-member HSYK could not be convened for the last two weeks as eight of its members missed its meetings due to health reasons. 

The HSYK move is seen as part of the government’s efforts to cover up corruption and a graft probe launched on Dec. 17, 2013, by what the government calls “a plot conducted by the Fethullah Gülen community.” The government has removed hundreds of prosecutors and thousands of police officers since Dec. 17, as it believes these civil servants were under the control of the Gülen community. 

The government is planning to let Parliament work over the weekend on the legislation of the HSYK law. Speaking to reporters, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said the government was planning to make changes on some of articles and remove some others; 21 of the bill’s 47 articles have already been approved. 

EU Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who held talks with EU officials in Brussels on Feb. 11, said the government ameliorated the draft law in line with EU demands. EU officials, however, underlined that they first had to see such ameliorations before making an assessment. 

CHP to take HSYK to Constitutional Court

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has reiterated that it would take the HSYK law immediately to the Constitutional Court if it is approved by the Parliament, without waiting for President Abdullah Gül’s decision on it. 

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu criticized the government’s plans to this end and said the AKP was already intervening in judicial decisions, recalling Bozdağ’s pressure on prosecutors to close corruption and graft probes. 

“They want to intimidate the people, the judges and prosecutors,” Kılıçdaroğlu said. “We regard parliamentary discussions on such a proposal in Parliament as a shame for our democracy. The executive has already taken the legislative under control and is now seeking to control the judiciary. You already know that the media has already been taken under control.”

The CHP’s deputy parliamentary group leader, Akif Hamzaçebi, described Elitaş’s statement as a threat issued against the judiciary and announced that they would apply to the Constitutional Court for an annulment of the law. The CHP’s application will also include a demand for the suspension of the execution of the law, Hamzaçebi said. 

With the approval of the law, some key judicial members at the HSYK will lose their positions, while the government will make new appointments accordingly. “Our goal is to stop these appointments to the HSYK,” Hamzaçebi said while explaining why they would not wait for the president’s move with regard to the bill.