Erdoğan attacks top courts, says ‘unsettled’ by their ‘incomprehensible’ rulings

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has lashed out at two of the country’s top courts due to some rulings that go against the stance of his government, describing their decisions as “incomprehensible” and “unsettling,” Turkish Minute reported, citing the T24 news website.

His remarks came during a return flight from Egypt where he paid a visit on Wednesday following years-long tensions with the country.

Erdoğan was asked by a reporter accompanying him about a decision of the Council of State, which in a landmark decision in 2022 ruled to reinstate 450 judges and prosecutors who had been removed from their jobs due to their alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement following a coup attempt in 2016

The Gülen movement is accused by the Turkish government and Erdoğan of masterminding the failed coup and is labeled a “terrorist organization,” although the movement denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Although the top court made its decision in 2022, the pro-government Sabah daily earlier this week reported it as a new development, using accusatory language against the court and warning about a “growing Fetö threat” in the judiciary. Fetö is a term used by the Turkish government and pro-government circles to refer to the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization.

Sabah said the Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) appealed the Council of State’s decision but that its appeal was not addressed by the top court.

Erdoğan said his government’s war against the Gülen movement is not over yet and that it’s impossible for it to remain silent about the court’s decision concerning the reinstatement of Gülen-linked judges and prosecutors.

Following the coup attempt in July 2016, judges and prosecutors were among the first group of more than 130,000 public servants who were fired. Some 4,300 judges and prosecutors were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

Four hundred fifty judges and prosecutors who were dismissed by the HSK based on emergency decrees issued by the government following the coup attempt challenged the HSK’s decisions at the Council of State and demanded their reinstatement.

Erdoğan said just like some rulings of the Constitutional Court, some decisions of the Council of State unsettle him and his government.

“Such decisions from the Council of State from time to time disturb us, but we are deeply unsettled by the frequency of such decisions made by the Constitutional Court,” Erdoğan said, expressing his unease with the rulings of both courts.

He said he cannot tolerate some of the “incomprehensible” decisions from the Constitutional Court.

As an example, he cited a recent decision from the Constitutional Court which annulled a controversial article of law that authorized the government to remove or restrict access to online content on the grounds that it “violates personal rights.”

The top court found that the power granted to Turkey’s Telecommunications Authority (BTK) to unilaterally remove content or block access was unconstitutional. The ruling also emphasized that such restrictions on content significantly infringed upon the fundamental freedoms of expression and the press.

The court’s decision came at a time of growing internet censorship in Turkey.

“A problematic decision in many aspects. How can such a decision be made?” Erdoğan said, adding that he would be closely following the “controversial” decisions of the Constitutional Court and the Council of State.

Turkey’s judiciary draws widespread criticism for its perceived lack of independence under the rule of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

Erdoğan is accused of exerting absolute control over the judiciary thanks to vast powers granted to him by a presidential system of governance.

The country has been experiencing a judicial crisis sparked by the imprisonment of an opposition lawmaker who was kept in prison despite two decisions from the Constitutional Court in his favor.

The Supreme Court of Appeals, which upheld an 18-year sentence for lawmaker Can Atalay in a politically motivated trial, refused to act in line with the Constitutional Court’s decisions and filed criminal complaints against the members of the top court due to their ruling, a first in the judicial history of Turkey.

Atalay was eventually stripped off his parliamentary status last month in defiance of successive rulings by the Constitutional Court.

Many say there is no longer a separation of powers in the country and that members of the judiciary are under the absolute control of the government and cannot make judgments based on law.

In a sign of the deteriorating rule of law in the country, Turkey was ranked 117th among 142 countries in the rule of law index published by the World Justice Project (WJP) in October.

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