Top court’s correspondence with parliament stirs debate
Next week will see an important gathering in the Turkish capital. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop, Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül, and other senior officials are all expected to attend the oath-taking ceremony of İrfan Fidan as the new member of the Constitutional Court.
Traditionally, the head of the main opposition party is also invited to the ceremony held at the premises of the Constitutional Court. As can be recalled, Fidan’s appointment to the top court has drawn serious reaction from the opposition parties, particularly from Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Fidan, the former Istanbul chief prosecutor, was appointed as a member of the Supreme Court of Appeals in late 2020 and before running for the seat at the Constitutional Court. His nomination and election to the high court was regarded as a breach of existing principles and customs of the high judiciary. It will therefore be seen whether Kılıçdaroğlu will attend the ceremony.
But the venue is not important only for this reason. It comes days after the Constitutional Court’s complaint about the fact that its two successive verdicts on the case of former CHP MP Enis Berberoğlu have not been implemented by a local court in Istanbul.
The high court verdict underpins that Berberoğlu’s rights were violated when he was convicted on terror-related charges and stripped of his parliamentarian status. It suggested the re-trial of Berberoğlu and re-instating his immunity as a member of parliament.
The high court’s detailed reasoning of Berberoğlu verdict was published in the Official Gazette but also delivered in a separate correspondence to parliament and the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors. Obviously, this correspondence has caused the reaction of Şentop who described it as a political declaration and an apparent manifestation of excess power.
Although Şentop, like Gül, urges the rulings of the Constitutional Court be obeyed by local courts, he did not approve this method which he sees as a direct intervention of the justice into the affairs of the legislation.
He informed the media that he will send a written statement to the high court explaining the position of the Turkish Parliament on this very debate. This correspondence between the Parliament and the top court marks a very first for many who are following Turkish politics closely.
There was no explanation from top court’s President Zühtü Arslan on Şentop’s criticisms. His first public appearance will be the oath-taking ceremony on Feb. 9 where he is scheduled to deliver an address on the functions of the Constitutional Court. He will probably voice, in front of the audience, his expectations from the local courts and recall article 153 of the current Constitution which stipulates the full implementation of the verdicts of the high court. The messages he will deliver from the podium of the Constitutional Court will surely be significant.
Plus, all these discussions coincide with a new call by President Erdoğan for a brand new charter. The top judge’s messages are believed to reflect how the high court sees the ongoing discussions about the new charter as well.