Main opposition leader meets President Gül, requests withdrawal of judicial bill
Many figures last week urged President Abdullah Gül to play the intermediary for solving the ongoing crisis. DHA photo
“The bill throws 90 years of democratic gains in the garbage,” Kılıçdaroğlu told reporters referring to the government proposal that will reshape the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), asking for its withdrawal as a main condition for agreeing to the ruling Justice and Development Party’s proposal for a Constitutional amendment on the judiciary.
The meeting took place following Gül’s inviting the leaders of opposition parties in Parliament for separate meetings at the presidential palace in Ankara, amid an ongoing political crisis, which erupted following a graft probe implicating ex-ministers and prominent businessmen.
It also came following chaotic parliamentary sessions on the controversial judicial bill over the weekend, marred by quarrels that exploded into fistfights.
Kılıçdaroğlu suggested the CHP might support a Constitutional amendment enhancing the judiciary’s independence, but expressed second pre-conditions along with the withdrawal of the controversial bill.
“The government should not obstruct the corruption probe,” Kılıçdaroğlu said after the meeting, which lasted around 45 minutes.
Gül will be receiving Bahçeli at 3:00 p.m. and Demirtaş at 6:00 p.m local time.
The meeting also came as a number of political figures, including former CHP leader Deniz Baykal, urged Gül to intermediate in the current legislative battle, which comes after a massive graft scandal embroiling the government, by using his leverage on the AKP. The bill has created concerns vis-à-vis the independence of the judiciary and the level of government control over the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, a key institution that forms the basis of Turkey’s judicial system.
Earlier Jan. 13, Kılıçdaroğlu said during a meeting with lawyers that his CHP would apply to the Constitutional Court to annul the current bill if it is approved by Gül after the parliamentary vote.
Graft prosecutor Zekeriya Öz rejects relocation, takes annual leave
Zekeriya Öz was removed from his post of Istanbul deputy chief prosecutor after he opened a graft investigation. AA Photo
Öz was removed from his post of Istanbul deputy chief prosecutor after he opened a graft investigation that included the sons of three former Cabinet members.
Last week, he claimed that he was “threatened” to stop the investigation by two members of the high judiciary sent by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Erdoğan rejected the accusations as slander while the two judges, identified in Internet reports as Chief Ombudsman Nihat Ömeroğlu and senior justice İsmail Rüştü Cirit, also dismissed the claims.
Öz was then reassigned by the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) as the deputy chief public prosecutor of Istanbul’s Bakırköy district.
He has reportedly taken his annual leave and will not start in his new position until after his formal objection is reviewed.
Brussels asks Turkey to be consulted to ensure judicial bill in line with EU legislation
EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle said via Twitter that he 'asked [Turkish] authorities to consult relevant amendments to laws before adoption to make sure they’re in line with principles of EU legislation.' DAILY NEWS photo
EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle said via Twitter that he “asked [Turkish] authorities to consult relevant amendments to laws before adoption to make sure they’re in line with principles of EU legislation.”
The EU had voiced last week strong concerns over the government response to recent graft probes that involve high-profile names and relatives of ruling party members through massive purges in the police and a bill increasing its control on the judiciary.
As a response, Turkey’s freshly-appointed EU minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who took over from an Egemen Bağış embroiled to the massive probe, urged calm further calling on Brussels to refrain from “unilateral and impatient statements via media.”
The judicial bill is expected to overturn the reform of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) in line with Turkey’s harmonization with the EU acquis. The body is at the center of the battle over control of the judiciary as its acting head has already condemned the bill as “unconstitutional.”
Füle’s statement was made both in English and Turkish.
Graft accusations aim to thwart Istanbul’s third airport and bridge plans: AKP spokesman
AKP's Hüseyin Çelik has hinted a plot behind the graft probes targeting Istanbul's future airport and bridge. AA photo
“If you look at who has been implicated or targeted with asset injunctions, [you see] that it’s the team who will build [Istanbul’s] third airport and third bridge without any exception,” Çelik said during a live broadcast Jan. 12.
Çelik said that the construction works, both among the AKP’s self-proclaimed “crazy projects,” had disturbed many people outside Turkey, particularly in Europe.
“I am not someone who gives a lot of credit to conspiracy theories. But we have to sit and think if the Frankfurt airport will [lose favor] when Istanbul’s third airport will be completed,” Çelik said.
According to Turkish media reports, prominent Turkish businessmen were among an arrest list of a second corruption probe, including the chairmen of the companies included in the consortium which won the contract to build Istanbul’s third airport.
The execution of the arrests was aborted after the police did not carry out the orders and the prosecutor overseeing the probe was removed from the case.
Çelik emphasized that those businessmen’s investments would ultimately serve the public funds. He also joined the partisans of the “timing and meaningless” argument denouncing that the accusations erupted a few months before local polls.
“Some want to label the AKP government as [corrupt] through creating a perception right before the election,” he said.
The graft probe escalated into a political crisis with the government’s move to increase its control over the judiciary, stirring outcry among the opposition ranks.
The parliamentary debates held over the week-end were marred by quarrels, which boiled over with AKP deputy Zeyid Aslan’s flying kick in a justice commission session.
Çelik also criticized the head of the Judges and Prosecutors Union (YARSAV), Ömer Faruk Eminağaoğlu, who had been attending the session but found himself on the receiving end of Aslan’s kung-fu heroics.
The bill has created concerns vis-à-vis the independence of the judiciary and the level of government control over the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, a key institution that forms the basis of Turkey’s judicial system.
Debate on controversial bill to restrict judicial body deepens
A fight erupted in Parliament during discussions in a parliamentary commission meeting on Saturday. (Photo: DHA)
12 January 2014 /TODAYSZAMAN.COM, İSTANBUL
The parliamentary debate on a controversial government-endorsed bill that would significantly restrict the powers of Turkey's top judicial council continued over the weekend with scuffles between deputies from the ruling and opposition parties during key commission meetings.
The prime minister also accused the judiciary of being unaccountable to the people's will and preventing businesspeople from doing their jobs.
Erdoğan criticized a judge who was kicked by a lawmaker from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) during a parliamentary commission debate on Saturday, accusing him of attempting to make a statement beyond the bounds of his authority.
The prime minister also told reporters, while inspecting a mosque under construction on Çamlıca Hill on the Anatolian side of İstanbul, that brawls among deputies cause greater tension during these sessions. He added that it is wrong for individuals to enter the Justice Commission and make statements without the proper authority, referring to Ömer Faruk Eminağaoğlu, chairman of the Judges and Prosecutors Association (YARSAV) and a judge in Çankırı province.
“First of all, you have no authority to speak there. Who are you? Know your limits. The place where you need to talk is a different place,” he said, adding that Eminağaoğlu and people of his kind are “militants,” not men of law.
The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) filed a complaint with the Parliamentary Speaker's Office, stating that the AK Party's Zeyid Aslan must be punished for kicking Eminağaoğlu during the commission meeting. The complaint, signed by CHP parliamentary deputy chairman Engin Altay, included a statement that Aslan's attack on Eminağaoğlu had tarnished the reputation of Parliament.
The CHP claimed that physical attacks during these debates have prevented the commission from doing its work. As the debate was in progress, punches were thrown and water bottles, folders and even an iPad flew through the air on Saturday.
Eminağaoğlu attempted to speak again on Sunday but was met with protests from some deputies of the ruling party. He was then escorted out of the meeting after the chairman would not allow him to speak.
It is not unusual for Commission members to hear the views of non-deputies, including members of government agencies, civil society representatives or unions. The fact that no members of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), which would be directly affected by the bill, were invited to the Commission was also criticized by opposition parties.
The Commission was chaired by AK Party deputy Ahmet İyimaya, while Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ was also present during the deliberations.
Oktay Vural, a Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy, said the opposition has no power other than words, noting that the Commission's chairman must guarantee an environment in which Commission members can voice their opinions freely.
Top judicial body opposed to changeSo far, 15 members of the HSYK have voiced their strong objection to the governing party's proposal to restructure the board, saying the plan violates the Constitution. They argue that the proposal contradicts the constitutional principle of the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and seeks to subordinate the board to the justice minister.
Earlier this week, the AK Party's proposal to restructure the HSYK was slammed by critics on the grounds that the bill would give the government a tighter grip on the judiciary.
Erdoğan claimed on Sunday that the bill is not a violation of the Constitution, adding that the opposition will have an opportunity to ask the Constitutional Court to reverse the decision after it is adopted by Parliament.
The opposition, however, is worried that once the bill is approved and signed into law by the president, the government may drastically restructure the judiciary while the Supreme Court revises the constitutionality of the law.
The legislation would allows the undersecretary of the justice minister to be elected chairman of the HSYK. The bill also rules that the board will no longer have the authority to pass decrees and regulations. Instead, the justice minister will be entitled to pass these on behalf of the HSYK. Furthermore, the board will be stripped of the authority to launch investigations into HSYK members. This authority will also be handed over to the justice minister.
The bill has drawn the ire of legal experts and jurists, as there is mounting concern over the gradual disappearance of the separation of judicial and executive powers and the ruling AK Party's desire to make the judiciary subservient to the government.
HSYK Deputy Chairman Ahmet Hamsici issued a 66-page statement on Friday in which he said the proposal seeks to destroy the independence of the board as well as the separation of powers in the country. According to the statement, if adopted, the bill will place the HSYK under the control of the justice minister.
The 15 HSYK members also complained that the AK Party proposal ignores the principle of the rule of law as well as the independence of the courts and the authority of judges.
Hamsici also underlined in his statement that most of the articles included in the bill violate international law, including the criteria set by the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe's (CoE) advisory board that seeks to uphold the constitutional principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, as well as some previous rulings of the Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE) and a decision of the Committee of Ministers of the CoE on the independence of judges.
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said, “Every judicial expert knows that the AK Party's HSYK proposal violates the Constitution.”
The planned changes to the HSYK have emerged during a heated debate over the future of a corruption and bribery investigation that has implicated certain AK Party ministers. The sons of two former ministers are among 24 high-profile names, including some bureaucrats and businesspeople, who were arrested in mid-December 2013 on corruption and bribery charges as part of the investigation.
Since the launch of the investigation, the government has faced persistent accusations of interfering with the judicial authorities in order impede the investigation.
The head of the Justice Academy and a member of the Supreme Court of Appeals, Hüseyin Yıldırım, also criticized the HSYK proposal, arguing that the new law will end the duties of the chairman, deputy chairmen, head of the education center, its deputy heads, judges, experts and all other administrative and auxiliary personnel in a way that was unseen even in "extraordinary times," referring to the several military coups in Turkish history.