Parliament approves controversial bill on judicial bodies, CHP takes it to top court
AA photoParliament has approved a controversial law radically shaping the structure of two top supreme judicial institutions, despite serious criticisms that the move will end judicial independence and neutrality in Turkey.
The move was inspired by the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) bid to purge alleged members of the Gülen movement from critical judicial positions, but is slammed by opposition parties as yet another crude power grab by the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Immediately after the passing of the bill at parliament, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) applied for its annulment at the Constitutional Court, saying the changes are unconstitutional.
The 38-article law was passed at the General Assembly after three days of marathon sessions that witnessed tension between ruling and opposition lawmakers.
According to the law, the number of judges at the Supreme Court of Appeals will be reduced from 516 to 200, while the number of judges at the Council of State will drop from 195 to 90. All members of both courts will be dismissed on the day the law will go into force except for their presidents, who will retain their positions despite the change in the law.
Supreme Court of Appeals President İsmail Rüştü Cirit and Council of State head Zerrin Güngör recently attracted severe criticism from opposition parties for accompanying President Erdoğan on domestic trips.
The new members of both courts will be selected by the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) within five days of the law going into effect, with a number of members of the Council of State to be directly appointed by President Erdoğan. Those who will not continue their jobs in the supreme justice bodies will be reappointed to other judicial institutions within 10 days.
Another measure against the Gülen community
Meanwhile, the tenure of judges of both courts will be limited to 12 years, although existing laws have allowed judges to remain in their positions until the retirement age of 65. The number of chambers at the Council of State will also be reduced from 17 to 10, while the 46 chambers of the Supreme Court of Appeals will be reduced to 23. The law also restricts the responsibilities of the Council of State as a court of appeals.
The move is regarded as part of yet another measure to purge sympathizers of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen from state institutions. The government’s fight against what it calls the “parallel structure” controlled by the Gülenist movement began in December 2013, after the launch of a massive corruption and fraud investigation with links to four former ministers. The Gülen movement was recently declared a terrorist organization by Turkey’s top security board, the National Security Council (MGK).
The Gülenists are accused of trying to overthrow the government – an erstwhile ally – by using their influence in the judiciary and police.
CHP takes it to top court
The CHP applied to the Constitutional Court on July 1, immediately after the passing of the bill at parliament, for its annulment. CHP Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair Levent Gök submitted his party’s appeal to the top court, saying the bill was “in full violation of the constitution and aimed to end judicial independence and neutrality.”
Turkish Parliament expands legal shield of appointed company trustees