Turkey’s judicial year ceremony returns to Supreme Court of Appeals after presidency controversy
Oya Armutçu - ANKARAThe judicial year opening day ceremony venue will once again be the Supreme Court of Appeals this year, after controversy erupted over the fact that it was held at the presidential palace in Ankara under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2015.
The Supreme Court of Appeals will host the ceremony on Sept. 5, the date it had traditionally been held for years.
The ceremonies for the opening of the judicial year were in the past held at the Supreme Court of Appeals and political party leaders were not allowed to make statements at the event.
However, the ceremony was moved to the presidency in 2015, which was also the first time that the president had delivered a speech at the event. The Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB), bar associations in Ankara, Istanbul and the Aegean city of İzmir, and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) all refused to attend the ceremony last year due to this change.
“Our decision not to attend comes from our sensitivity about judicial independence and impartiality,” the TBB said in a statement last year. It also delivered a message to the Constitutional Court that holding the ceremony at the presidency in Ankara would “harm the principle of separation of powers and erode the independence and impartiality of the judiciary in both national and international public opinion,” according to the statement.
In an address to more than 1,500 participants including senior government officials, judges, prosecutors, heads of supreme judicial institutions, and Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, President Erdoğan claimed last year that “[holding the ceremony at the presidency] will strengthen judicial independence.”
The controversy followed previous disagreement in 2014, when a speech delivered by the TBB chair was removed from the agenda of the ceremony after a quarrel between Erdoğan and TBB head Metin Feyzioğlu. Approached by daily Hürriyet, Feyzioğlu said he was invited to the ceremony but he wanted to deliver a speech and was therefore not planning to attend the gathering solely as part of the audience.
“Some are not happy to hearing the truth,” he added.