Erdoğan appoints controversial judge as member of Turkey’s top court

Turkey's Constitutional Court

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has appointed Yılmaz Akçil, a judge known for his controversial decisions, as a member of Turkey’s Constitutional Court, in yet another development raising concerns about the politicization of the country’s judiciary, Turkish Minute reported, citing the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Akçil, a member of Turkey’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, was selected from among three candidates nominated by the court’s general assembly.

Judge Yılmaz Akçil

Erdoğan’s decision on Akçil’s appointment was published in the Official Gazette on Wednesday.

Akçil, who was elected head of the Council of State’s 10th Chamber in 2018, voted in favor of the cancellation of a 1934 Cabinet decision that converted Hagia Sophia, an iconic cathedral with a history dating back more than 1,500 years, from its then-use as a mosque into a museum following the establishment of the Turkish Republic. With the cancellation of the 1934 decision, the Turkish government turned Hagia Sophia back into a mosque in July 2020, which brought Turkey widespread international criticism.

Ayçil was also one of the judges at the Council of State who voted against the cancellation of a presidential decree requiring Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention.

Despite opposition from the international community and women’s rights groups, Erdoğan issued a decree in March 2021 that pulled the country out of the Istanbul Convention, an international treaty that requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting perpetrators of domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.

Turkey officially withdrew from the convention on July 1, 2021.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is accused of taking the judiciary under its control and giving orders to judges and prosecutors to make politically motivated rulings. Turkey experienced a massive purge of civil servants following a failed coup in 2016 under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, have been fired. The purge of judges and prosecutors led to even more politicization of the judiciary, many say, as their positions have been filled by AKP cronies.

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