Experts say appeals judges have nullified Turkish constitution by overruling top court

The recent refusal of Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals to comply with the ruling of the Constitutional Court (AYM) is tantamount to nullifying the country’s constitution, Turkish Minute reported, citing legal experts.

Turkish judiciary is facing an unprecedented crisis following the appeals court refusal to comply with two successive rulings by the country’s top court in the case of a jailed lawmaker, triggering backlash, protests and accusations of a judicial coup.

Can Atalay, a newly elected parliamentarian from the Workers Party of Turkey (TİP), remains in prison despite a prior AYM decision stating his rights to a fair trial, to the ability to engage in political activity and to liberty were violated.

The 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals dismissed the AYM’s second ruling as lacking legal merit, calling it “juristocratic.”

This defiance follows the appeals court’s first refusal to abide by an AYM ruling in November, when the appeals judges also filed criminal complaints against the AYM members who rendered the decision favoring Atalay.

Before the AYM rulings, the high appeals court upheld an 18-year sentence for Atalay in the Gezi Park trial in September.

Legal professionals and academics took to X and underlined that the appeals court’s decision is unconstitutional and raises fears over the safety of basic rights and freedoms in Turkey.

Professor İzzet Özgenç criticized the 3rd Criminal Chamber for creating an unprecedented type of decision, overstepping its jurisdiction and denying the AYM’s authority to rule on individual applications.

Legal expert Mehmet Köksal emphasized that the appeals court’s refusal to recognize the Constitutional Court’s ruling represents a total absence of legal safeguards in the country.

Lawyer Salim Şen characterized the 3rd Criminal Chamber’s action as a usurpation of authority and a direct assault on constitutional order, essentially pronouncing the death of law in Turkey.

Professor Şule Özsoy Boyunsuz said the appeals court is not only illegally detaining an individual but is actively demolishing all constitutional rights and the constitutional order itself.

Opposition lawmaker Mustafa Yeneroğlu described the appeals court’s decision as the most blatant manifestation of legal corruption, accusing it of nullifying the constitution and unlawfully prosecuting the AYM members.

International relations professor Ayşe Zarakol commented that the rule of law in Turkey has ceased to exist, noting the collapse of procedural hierarchy with lower courts defying the top court.

Constitutional law expert and former lawmaker Professor İbrahim Kaboğlu accused the 3rd Criminal Chamber of subverting the constitutional order and misinterpreting constitutional provisions for political ends.

Lawyer Ali Gül claimed that the constitution in Turkey has been effectively suspended by the actions of the judges of the 3rd Criminal Chamber.

Speaking to the Dokuz8haber news website, constitutional law professor Süheyl Batum said the appeals court’s decision disregards clear constitutional and legal provisions. Batum warned that such an action sets a dangerous precedent where even the president or parliament could disregard the decisions of the AYM.

“Where there is no rule of law, there is no constitution and no state. This is an incredibly serious decision,” Batum was quoted as saying.

In response to the appeals court decision, Özgür Özel, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), announced a shift in the agenda of the party’s Central Executive Board (MYK) and Party Assembly (PM) meetings. The meetings, initially focused on mayoral candidate selections for Turkey’s local elections slated for March 31, will now address what Özel terms a coup attempt by the Supreme Court of Appeals in ignoring the top court’s ruling on imprisoned MP Atalay.

Freeing the AYM from ‘neoliberal biases’

Mehmet Uçum, one of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s chief advisors, has targeted the AYM for its decisions, calling it a “flawed institution,” citing instances of perceived constitutional violations and legal overreaches in its history.

He condemned the AYM for closing various political parties on ideological grounds and for decisions impacting the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Uçum claimed the AYM positions itself above the top appeals court and the Council of State without any lawful reason to do so, leading to numerous legal violations.

He asserted that the AYM’s actions have created legal chaos, with courts rebelling against its unconstitutional decisions.

Uçum defended the 3rd Criminal Chamber for not complying with the AYM’s decisions on Atalay. He claimed the AYM’s actions have led to a dispute, not a crisis, with the solution lying in the hands of the Turkish Parliament.

Uçum emphasized the need for a restructuring of the AYM, aligning it with “national judicial norms” and freeing it from “Western and neoliberal biases.”

Prior to the latest crisis, President Erdoğan already faced accusations of controlling the judiciary and establishing one-man rule.

Turkey is ranked 117th in the World Justice Project’s rule of law index, reflecting concerns over judicial independence.

However, many see this latest episode as the final nail in the coffin and Turkey’s descent into complete autocracy as the government-controlled judges do not even bother to abide by the procedural hierarchy and maintain appearances.

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