Turkish PM Erdoğan holds unannounced summit with inner circle
Erdoğan held a three-hour long meeting at Dolmabahçe Palace with Interior Minister Ala, MİT Undersecretary Fidan, Istanbul Police Chief Altınok and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ Jan. 3. DAILY NEWS photo
In the morning, Erdoğan held a meeting with Interior Minister Efkan Ala and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT)) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan at his private residence in the Üsküdar district. Following Friday prayer at a mosque nearby, which he performed along with Istanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu; Istanbul Police Chief Selami Altınok; former EU Minister Egemen Bağış, who has been recently replaced due to reported involvement in the corruption subject to probe, Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Kadir Topbaş, his advisors Yalçın Akdoğan and Mustafa Varank and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy Ahmet İyimaya, who is also the head of Parliament’s Constitution Commission, Erdoğan proceeded to the Prime Ministry Office at Dolmabahçe Palace.
Erdoğan held a three-hour long meeting at Dolmabahçe Palace with Interior Minister Ala, MİT Undersecretary Fidan, Istanbul Police Chief Altınok and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ.
Meanwhile, anonymous sources from the Prime Ministry Office told the Anadolu Agency Erdoğan will gather with a 45-person group that represents different segments of society. Some members of the Cabinet will also attend the meeting with opinion-leaders, journalists and representatives of civil society organizations, which will be held before noon on Jan. 4, the same sources said, solely saying the meeting will focus on the “recent days’ developments.”
No parallel organization within state can be tolerated, particularly inside judiciary: President Gül
PResident Abdullah Gül spoke during a live interview with private broadcaster Habertürk Jan. 3. AA photo
“There cannot be another state or other organizations within the state. There cannot be such thing as [receiving] instructions from outside an institution,” Gül said Jan. 3 during a live interview with private broadcaster Habertürk in his first extensive comments on the Dec. 17 graft probe with has shaken the government.
The prime minister and several government officials have repeatedly accused “a parallel state” within the police department and especially the judiciary of plotting the probe, in which sons of two former ministers are also still under arrest for bribery charges while other two ex-ministers have also been implicated.
“If such things happen, those have of course to be investigated, elucidated and what’s necessary should be done. Furthermore, transparency on such issues is as important as in civil society. Particularly if such [organizations] occur in the judiciary, these cannot be tolerated,” Gül said.
He also commented on the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors’ (HSYK) last week’s statement against a governmental decree lifting investigation secrecy, which came ahead of a ruling of the Council of State that ultimately annulled the controversial move.
“I did not find HSYK’s statement adequate. The court was set to decide so its decision should not have been overshadowed. These sort of disputes and making them public are not very favorable things. Constitutional institutions should know very well their constitutional duties,” Gül said.
About calls for his intervention on the turmoil, Gül said he was holding meetings on the issue but remained very careful to not act beyond his powers.
“We are not in a presidential system, but in a parliamentary system. I am doing what falls on me. We talk about this matter in my meetings. I do what’s necessary to enhance harmony between state institutions,” he said.
Gül also said that he did not see any link between the Gezi protests and the graft probe, as suggested by many government officials.
Meanwhile, he hailed the release of two jailed Kurdish lawmakers upon a ruling of the Constitutional Court on their lengthy detentions.
No amnesty for coup cases should be expected: Deputy PM Arınç
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç held a meeting with Paliament reporters in Ankara, Jan. 3, during which he commented on a number of issues, including the criminal complaint filed by the General Staff on coup cases. AA photo
“No one should be in the expectation of a general amnesty,” Arınç said during a meeting with Parliament reporters in Ankara, responding to questions on the government’s position about the military’s move to start legal action on trials that led to the conviction of numerous high-ranking members of the Turkish Armed Forces.
“Amnesty is a very dangerous word. If a member of the government or the Parliament speaks about it a great expectation may arise. Think about those people who are jailed, they will go to bed, then wake up thinking about the amnesty. As the government, we don’t have such thinking,” he said.
Arınç said that he did not have much knowledge about the content of the complaint filed by the General Staff. “If they believe that the judiciary should be careful on certain issues … this should be adequately assessed. There are things that the judiciary in a state of law such Turkey can do over these sort of demands,” Arınç said.
In its official complaint, the General Staff argued that evidence had been fabricated and manipulated in the coup plot cases, reports said.
The move by the General Staff comes just days after the prime minister’s top political adviser spoke of a “plot” targeting the army, leading to opposition calls for exposure of the “conspiracy.”
'People are concerned about mistakes’
Arınç also expressed criticism of Akdoğan during his meeting with Ankara reporters, stressing that the prime minister’s aide must explain what he meant with his opinion piece.
“Plot is his own word, so it’s him that we have to ask [what it means]. Why did you write such a column? Someone cannot stay top adviser while being a lawmaker at the same time. He still has that title [of top adviser]. If you are someone whose words, writings are carefully followed, explain,” Arınç said, adding that Akdoğan’s piece raised concerns on possible judiciary “mistakes.”
“[Akdoğan] speaks about some circles who abuse their power inside the state. Can these circles fabricate evidence? There is a concern that mistakes could have been made. Who can say that this concern is wrong?” Arınç asked.
He also said retrials may occur and an application could be filed for trials that had been completed.
Arınç also welcomed the Constitutional Court’s ruling that the lengthy detention’s duration of two jailed Kurdish lawmakers was excessive.
“I say for three years that the durations of lengthy detentions have turned into punishment. I say that they should be released. I think that the right to a fair trial should not be violated,” Arınç said.
‘Click, click, click all day’: Twitter warning
Arınç also criticized the activities of fellow ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) members on Twitter, referring to deputy Burhan Kuzu’s tweet on Jan. 1 that said a list of 2,000 names allegedly involved in an organization within the state was submitted to Erdoğan.
“We are not relishing writing things that might offend anyone or become trending topics. But for some it has become such a disease, they click, click, click and only occupy themselves with that all day. They should abandon this, especially the ministers,” Arınç said, adding that many advisers were also very active on Twitter.
Kuzu, however, said on Jan. 2 via Twitter that his tweets about the list of 2,000 people were not his remarks but he was citing a report from daily Akşam.
Describing the use of Twitter by certain deputies, Arınç said, “[They say] ‘I sent that many tweets, it received so many retweets,’ [what nonsense]. Then they say they shared a headline in a newspaper. So, don’t share it.”
The report relayed by Kuzu was then denied by Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay on Jan. 2.
Ex-opposition leader Baykal calls on President Gül to intervene in graft scandal
Deniz Baykal comes out of his meeting with Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek Jan. 3. AA photo
Baykal, who was organizing surprise meetings in Ankara, also confirmed that he would meet Gül on Jan. 4.
“The current constitutional crisis has also started to affect the economy. There is a political and judicial lock. We all see that it is imperative to search for a key,” Baykal told reporters after a tête-à-tête meeting with Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek Jan. 3.
“Our Constitution has thought about our president as a solution for these sorts of difficult periods. This is why the Presidency exists; he has to show his influence,” Baykal said.
The comments from Baykal, who is holding the meetings after a long period out of the public eye since ceding control of the CHP to Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, come as the government faces accusations of bribery and corruption implicating four ex-ministers.
The ex-leader of the CHP, who is still a lawmaker, reportedly aims to “prevent the claims from resulting in a crisis of state.”
“I think that political mechanisms should be mobilized. This is what I shared with the parliamentary speaker. This is what I will share with the president,” Baykal said. “Turkey should come out of [the graft claims] with a purification.”
Baykal also held a meeting in the morning with Kılıçdaroğlu during the meeting.
AK Party gov’t violates rule of law with mass profiling of civil servants
Burhan Kuzu, head of the parliamentary constitution commission and the AK Party deputy for İstanbul (Photo: Today's Zaman)
2 January 2014 /AYDIN ALBAYRAK, ANKARA
Profiling by the government -- which a senior member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) admitted to over Twitter -- of some 2,000 senior public officials including police chiefs, prosecutors and judges as well as academics, journalists and business people is a violation of the constitution, analysts have said.
In Dec. 31 posts on his Twitter account based on the pro-government Akşam daily's previous news report about the government's alleged profiling, AK Party deputy and Parliament's constitutional commission head Burhan Kuzu said, “an intelligence report that was submitted to the prime minister detailed a parallel structure within the state,” and added that some 2,000 names are listed in that report.
In an article that appeared on Dec. 3, Akşam said that an intelligence report presented to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan demonstrated the existence of a parallel state structure in state institutions. "If the [second] operation had not been blocked, a smear campaign would have been launched [against the government],” the daily claimed.
Kuzu's acknowledgement was the first admission indicating that Prime Minister Erdoğan's government replaced hundreds of police officers and other government employees in rushed decisions and without clear justification against a backdrop of a massive corruption investigation launched by prosecutors in İstanbul that has implicated some senior members of the government and their close relatives.
For Altan, the government's recent blocking of a second wave in the corruption probe in which Bilal Erdoğan, the son of Prime Minister Erdoğan, was also allegedly included -- as well as the owners of some of Turkey's leading construction companies that have won public tenders in recent years -- amounts to a coup d'état of civilian nature. “This government has carried out a coup and some of those 2,000 people represent the first people that the government is likely to arrest,” Altan commented.
A senior member of the ruling party, Kuzu also admitted that the government foiled other possible investigations against it in 42 provinces. Comparing Turkey to an aircraft, Kuzu said the latest corruption investigation attacked the pilot, Erdoğan, and added, “Don't forget that we are all on the same plane.” He described those attacking Erdoğan as heartless backstabbers, but he didn't provide any names.
Noting that the AK Party recently prevented the police from obeying the instructions of a prosecutor and a court in a second phase of the corruption probe, Altan commented: “If, in a country, police do not obey a prosecutor's orders, then it is no longer possible to talk about the constitutional legitimacy [of the government].”
In a series of public remarks, Erdoğan talked about gangs and parallel structures within the state that pulled the trigger on the recent corruption operation against his government. He said global powers have been working with these gangs to oust his government and overcome the national will that expressed itself through general elections in 2011.
Erdoğan's remarks were a veiled reference to a civic movement called Hizmet, inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, which has been active in education, charity and community volunteer work. Gülen's lawyer denied any involvement in the recent graft probe and strongly rejected any link to the case. “The first thing to be said is that profiling is a crime,” Günal Kurşun, president of the Human Rights Agenda Association (İHGD), told Today's Zaman. Noting that profiling is a violation of personal freedoms that are under the protection of the Constitution, Kurşun, who is also a professor of law at Çukurova University, said: “A state should in no way profile its own citizens. If such a list has really been drawn up, those who have done so committed a crime.”
In a shocking graft probe in mid-December, the first phase of the graft probe, sons of three former ministers -- Interior Minister Muammer Güler, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan and Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar -- were initially detained. Two, a son of Güler and one of Çağlayan, were arrested afterwards.
Prosecutors sent a summary of graft investigation proceedings to Parliament, asking for the legislative immunity of four now former ministers of the AK Party, Güler, Çağlayan, Bayraktar and EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış, to be lifted. The ministers have been accused of taking bribes or, in the case of Environment and Urban Planning Minister Bayraktar, of paving the way for building contractors to obtain unlawful profits.
Erdoğan, seemingly seeing that he himself would be a target through his son, Bilal, and possibly others in the government, did not allow the police to go after the suspects in a second phase of the graft probe that was supposed to take place a week after the first.
“If claims [about profiling] are correct, then the issue is extremely worrisome,” Ergun Özbudun, a professor of constitutional law at İstanbul Şehir University, told Today's Zaman.
Erdoğan described the graft probe as a foreign plot and removed from their positions hundreds of police officers, including those conducting the investigation. And, by amending a regulation, the government forced police chiefs to inform their superiors before acting on prosecutors' orders in investigations and appointed two additional prosecutors to supervise the ongoing corruption case, a move described as a blunt intervention in the graft investigation.
Erdoğan described the graft probe as a foreign plot and removed from their positions hundreds of police officers, including those conducting the investigation. Additionally, by amending a regulation, the government forced police chiefs to inform their superiors before acting on prosecutors' orders in investigations and appointed two additional prosecutors to supervise the ongoing corruption case, a move described as a blunt intervention in the graft investigation.
Erdoğan, describing the faith-based Hizmet movement as an organization within the state or a “parallel state,” accused the movement of plotting against the government. He uttered in an obvious reference to the Hizmet movement during a recent meeting that the government would come down to their camps to get them.
According to Ertuğrul Günay, a former deputy of the ruling AK Party, the profiling of civil servants is an act that is unacceptable in a state where the rule of law presides. “The statements [recently] made [by AK party officials on the profiling issue] are diametrically opposed to what government spokespersons had said [earlier],” Günay told Today's Zaman. “In a sense, this would come to mean that profiling [by the state], which we believed we had gotten rid of with the referendum in 2010, still continues,” he added.
The Taraf daily wrote that the government's attitude would encourage bureaucrats to inform on each other, saying that a certain person has close ties to a certain political or religious group. “Bureaucrats have begun to denounce one another as supporters of the Hizmet movement or sympathizers with the Gezi protests that rocked the country at the beginning of summer,” the daily claimed.
Günay is as concerned as about the future of democracy in Turkey and the future of society as Özbudun. “The elimination, on the occasion of this operation [as part of the graft investigation], of people from various public positions who are believed would investigate corruption cases is worrisome,” he commented.
“A wave of denouncing [civil servants] the same as that which happened during the Feb. 28 post-modern military coup [in 1997] is being seen again in this period,” the daily said.
According to İdris Bal, a former AK Party deputy who, like Günay, recently resigned from the party, the discourse of the government with respect to the profiling is reminiscent of that of fascism. “If people have not violated the law, then profiling people according to the newspaper they read, where they live and the singers to whom they listen is not democracy but [representative of] a regime where repression reigns,” he told Today's Zaman. Bal believes the ruling party, by claiming that the Hizmet movement and foreign powers are plotting against it, is actually trying to water down and conceal the claims of corruption in the government.
The government should respect Turkey's independent judiciary and the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV), the honorary chair of which is Gülen, the GYV said in a statement published on its website at the beginning of the week.
The GYV also said that it rejects conspiracy theories such as those involving a “deep state” and “parallel structures” as well as accusations of “treason,” “espionage” and “collaboration with international powers” against the interests of Turkey.
The GYV said these theories are simply part of a smear campaign against the Hizmet movement and suggested that the government is attempting to distract the public from the scandal.
The organization said it has repeatedly called on the government to submit whatever evidence it has of shady structures within the state to the judiciary.
Government plans to change Turkey's justice system
Forced onto the defensive by the corruption probe, the ruling Justice and Development Party looks to go back onto the attack by trimming the wings of the judiciary, especially the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors
Ankara Jurists Platform hold a protest against the recent statements of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) in front of its building. DAILY NEWS photo
The move by the government, which has suggested that it was fending off a “mini coup attempt” by elements in the police and judiciary who served the interests of foreign and domestic forces bent on humbling the country, comes around three years after a referendum which brought significant changes to the judicial system, that’s to say the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State.
The modification of those key bodies was carried out within the context of Turkish constitutional reforms that were approved in a referendum in September 2010.
The move is highly likely to irritate the European Union as at the time, both the EU and the United States hailed the results from the referendum on a package of changes to the country’s military-era Constitution, with EU’s Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle describing the reforms as “a step in the right direction as they address a number of long-standing priorities in Turkey’s efforts towards fully complying with the accession criteria.”
HSYK first target
According to a Jan. 1 report by Turkish daily newspaper Radikal, the HSYK, which angered the government by delivering a statement on Dec. 26 and describing a new judicial police regulation obliging those carrying out investigations to inform superiors as “unconstitutional,” is the prior target of the government’s plan.
Nonetheless, today the government will not be as comfortable as it was when it initiated the reforms in 2010. To be able to make constitutional amendments, the ruling AKP will need support from both the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which is not likely to be offered given the corruption probe.
There are only 40 days left before the Parliament goes into recess due to the local elections in late March. During this short period of time, the government will try to at least make some legal amendments which will limit the authorities of both the HSYK and the Council of State, Radikal reported, noting that a new referendum which would deal with changes to the judicial system was not on the agenda.
Given the difficulty of making these changes on their own, the government may resort to putting changes concerning the judicial system in a package which would also include arrangements that will pave the way for the release of jailed lawmakers, which would be relieving for those convicts and detainees in coup plot cases such as Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer).
Backstage talks indicate that the AKP may initiate meetings with the opposition parties for such formulation after the New Year holiday. An option cited during these talks is making an arrangement for the appointment of a new “secretary-general” to the HSYK.
Key HSYK meeting on Jan 8
The 3rd Chamber of the HSYK will, meanwhile, hold a meeting on Jan. 8 in order to discuss the recent cross of swords between members of the judicial system, Turkish daily Hürriyet reported on Jan. 1.
Whether the prosecutors involved have been handling the corruption probe appropriately; whether they have violated the confidentiality of the probe; whether Zekeriya Öz, the Istanbul deputy chief prosecutor who supervised the prosecutors, is involved in inappropriate business relations at a municipality, as suggested by Prime Minister Erdoğan; and mutual accusations between Prosecutor Muammer Akkaş and Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Turan Çolakkadı will be on the agenda of the meeting which the newspaper described as a “surprise” meeting.
Party delegates to meet over release of jailed deputies
Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Deputy Chair Meral Danış Beştaş makes a statement to press about jailed MPs. AA photo
The parties’ group deputy chairs will discuss a possible amendment to Article 83 of the Constitution, which regulates immunity, or an amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure. Five deputies supported by the BDP are currently in jail, as is Engin Alan, an MP for the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
Although the MHP will not participate in the gathering, the parties will seek to secure the release of Alan, as well as Sebahat Tuncel from the BDP’s sister party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), after both deputies’ convictions were confirmed by a higher court.
HDP co-chair Tuncel may lose her parliamentary seat after the Supreme Court of Appeals approved an eight-year sentence against her for membership in the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on Dec. 28, 2013.
Meanwhile, Ayhan Sefer Üstün, head of Parliament’s Human Rights Inquiry Commission, said it was unnecessary for the five jailed Kurdish lawmakers to apply to Turkey’s Constitutional Court for their release.
“There was no need for the Constitutional Court ruling on the release of the BDP deputies since the Balbay decision outlines the general principles,” Anadolu Agency quoted Üstün yesterday in reference to the recent release of CHP deputy Mustafa Balbay.
If those principles had been implemented by the local court, then the BDP lawmakers could have already been released, he said, adding that the application to the Constitutional Court’s was a “waste of time.”
“The Constitutional Court should immediately examine the case and give a ruling under the framework similar to the principles defined in the Balbay case,” Üstün said.
The five applied to the Constitutional Court for their release on Dec. 31, 2013, after a local court refused to grant their freedom two weeks ago, even though Balbay was freed in similar circumstances a month ago.
The five lawmakers – BDP deputies İbrahim Ayhan, Selma Irmak, Faysal Sarıyıldız, Gülser Yıldırım, as well as independent deputy Kemal Aktaş – remain detained as part of the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) case.
Turkish PM Erdoğan labels graft probe an ‘assassination attempt’
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has slammed once agains the current graft probe with the strongest words, describing it as an 'assassination attempt' during the broadcast of his monthly address to the nation on Dec. 31. AA photo
“The Dec. 17 plot is an assassination attempt hidden inside the package of corruption. The Dec. 17 plot is targeting the people’s government. It also targeted the national will, the ballot box and democracy,” said Erdoğan in his monthly message titled “on the way to serve people” referring to a graft probe started on Dec. 17.
Twenty-four people have been arrested as part of the corruption investigation that emerged in Turkey last month, including the sons of former Interior Minister Muammer Güler and former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan.
“An organization settled in the state institutions, particularly judiciary and police, has been attempting an assassination attack on Turkey’s stability and security atmosphere with the instructions it is taking from the outside,” said Erdoğan, in reference to the ongoing graft probe being a plot of an organization against the government.
“Some circles organized inside the judiciary are working to take the sovereignty from the people and give it to the judiciary and acted irresponsibly and militantly as if they were doing a judiciary coup,” said Erdoğan.
Erdoğan said that his government was exposed to two attacks last year, the first being the Gezi Park protests that rocked the country during May and June and the second being the graft probe.
From Today's Zaman......
Opposition says no support for government to suppress judiciary
İstanbul Prosecutor Muammer Akkaş (Photo: Today's Zaman)
1 January 2014 /ALİ ASLAN KILIÇ, ANKARA
Facing increasing pressure from ongoing corruption investigations, the Turkish government has been trying to suppress the judiciary with a series of legal and constitutional overhauls, yet it has failed to garner enough support from the opposition parties to push its initiatives through the legislature.
“The main agenda in Turkey is the bribery and corruption investigation. We, as the Republican People's Party (CHP), will never say ‘yes' to any amendment that would help to close the case on the investigation. While the legal process continues for the corruption probe, no one should come to us with a request [to change judiciary],”CHP Deputy Chairman Akif Hamzaçebi told Today's Zaman.
A government-sponsored bill would strip the Council of State of its right to suspend executive orders. The ruling party is also planning a constitutional amendment to split the HSYK into two different branches, to be known as the Supreme Board of Judges and the Supreme Board of Prosecutors. The members of the both councils would be elected by Parliament, with a qualified majority required.
The opposition was willing to pass amendments to change the structure of the HSYK when the AK Party first brought the issue to the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission in July.
But it seems that AK Party is having serious trouble getting the opposition to cooperate amid the major corruption scandal, which has led to the resignation of three ministers and caused seven deputies to quit the AK Party in protest. Burdur deputy Hasan Hami Yıldırım's Tuesday resignation from AK Party brought the party's number of seats in Parliament down to 320.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Ankara deputy Özcan Yeniçeri told Today's Zaman that the government, cornered by the bribery and corruption probes, is trying to exercise control over the judiciary. The MHP, he continued, will not support the party's efforts to seize the judiciary and distract the public from the scandal.
The AK Party may try to blackmail the MHP by moving to end the appeals process of Gen. Engin Alan, an MHP deputy jailed on coup charges, Yeniçeri said: “(AK Party) may try to get support [from opposition parties] for legal and constitutional amendments by blackmail and dirty political games. The aim is to make the judiciary a pro-AK Party institution. But the MHP is not the kind of party that bows to this blackmail.”
The AK Party needs opposition support to restructure the HSYK by constitutional amendment, which requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
On Tuesday, a new bill drafted by the AK Party to restructure the Council of State passed committee in the Turkish Parliament. The opposition argues that the bill would deal a major blow to the right to a fair trial in the Turkey and significantly weaken individuals' ability to defend their fundamental rights against government encroachment.
The bill seeks to open a new chamber in the Council of State and would appoint an unprecedented 32 new judges to the court. The government defends the bill by arguing that the new chamber and additional judges will help lighten the court's caseload. The opposition, however, is arguing that the government wants to dilute the powers of the court, which functions as a check against government decisions that violate the Constitution and the law.
Commenting on the AK Party's initiatives to change the judiciary, Mehmet Kasap, lawyer and president of the Law and Life Association, told Today's Zaman that while the judiciary is still pursuing the corruption investigation, attempts to change the structure of the Council of State and HSYK raise suspicions that an attempt to cover up the scandal is being made.
“It is also wrong to blackmail the opposition to gain their support [for the amendments]. Opposition support for the government in making a constitutional amendment at such a critical stage would make the oppositions parties responsible for the negative outcomes that would ensue if the judiciary is changed,” Kasap said.
Erdoğan, who relentlessly campaigned for constitutional amendments to restructure the HSYK in 2010, has recently said that he made a mistake and wants to make further changes to the judicial body as soon as possible. Before the 2010 amendment, Erdoğan and his AK Party had accused the HSYK of being the guardian of judicial tutelage over elected representatives.
With the Sept. 12, 2010 referendum and constitutional amendments in the same year, the number of the HSYK's board members rose from 7 to 22. Members were no longer elected only by the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State and 11 judges from Turkey's total of around 13,000 judges were appointed to the board to represent judges on the bench.
But Erdoğan has targeted the HSYK in the wake of the corruption scandal.
Erdoğan accused the HSYK of committing a crime by issuing a statement a change to police procedure that was under review at the Council of State at the time.
On Dec. 26, the HSYK harshly criticized the new regulation, which required police chiefs and prosecutors to notify their superiors of ongoing investigations, saying it violates the Turkish Constitution.
State institutions, the HSYK said, and executive offices must act in line with the principle of equality before the law in all of their activities, adding that an independent judiciary is a guarantee for citizens. The statement went on to say that the judicial check against governmental abuse of power is an essential part of a democratic nation under the rule of law.
Meanwhile, media outlets are reporting that the HSYK will discuss next Wednesday the back-and-forth accusations and allegations between prosecutors and government amid the corruption scandal.
Prosecutors Zekeriya Öz, Celal Kara and Muammer Akkaş filed a criminal complaint on Monday at the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office in which they said they had become the victims of a character assassination campaign waged in the media outlets at the behest of people in powerful positions.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said on Dec. 19 that he was planning to file a complaint against those he claimed had "violated the confidentiality" of the investigation into graft allegations.
“I'm filing a criminal complaint, as a deputy prime minister, about whoever violated the confidentiality of the case,” Bozdağ said. It was unclear whether he had specific individuals in mind.
On Dec. 17, İstanbul and Ankara police staged dawn raids and detained more than 50 people in the corruption investigation. Among the detainees were officials, well-known businesspeople and the sons of three Cabinet ministers. Allegations have emerged that several ministers were involved in bribery.
The sons of two of the ministers as well as more than 20 other suspects have been arrested. The suspects stand accused of various charges, including rigging state tenders, accepting and facilitating bribes for major urbanization projects, obtaining construction permits for protected areas in exchange for money, helping foreigners obtain Turkish citizenship with falsified documents and involvement in export fraud, forgery and gold smuggling.
The investigation into the sons of the ministers is being carried out by Öz, famous for his investigations into Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal network convicted of attempting to overthrow the government. Öz was assisted by prosecutor Kara in the corruption investigation. But two new prosecutors were appointed to the investigation on Dec. 18 by İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Turan Çolakkadı, who said the operation is being conducted by “the investigation's own prosecutors” and that Öz supervised the raids.