Mass transport of judges to presidential palace casts doubt on judicial independence in Turkey

Photo: Cumhuriyet daily

In a development that cast further doubt over the independence of the judiciary in Turkey, judges and prosecutors from one of the top courts in the country were taken to the presidential palace in Ankara by bus for a ceremony marking the inauguration of the new judicial year on Monday.

In past years, ceremonies marking the opening of the new judicial year were held in judicial buildings in a symbol of the independence of the judiciary from politics. However, this ceremony began to be held at the presidential palace in Ankara in 2017 upon an order from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The ceremony marking the opening of the 2018-2019 judicial year was held at the presidential palace for the second time on Monday. It was organized by the presidency of the Supreme Court of Appeals.

According to a report in the Cumhuriyet daily, there was huge attendance at the ceremony because the presidency of the Supreme Court of Appeals had sent a message to some 1,000 judges and prosecutors who work at the top court, saying that attendance at the ceremony was obligatory.

These judges and prosecutors traveled to the presidential palace in Ankara’s Beştepe neighborhood by bus. Photos of the judges and prosecutors going to Beştepe in buses led to claims on social media that they were acting like the servants of Erdoğan rather than the members of an independent judiciary.

Turkey’s judiciary is being criticized for acting on orders from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and not basing their rulings on the law. Judges in Turkey who make decisions that anger Erdoğan are either replaced or jailed. Turkey has fallen to the 101st position out of 113 countries in the World Justice Project’s (WJP) 2017-18 Rule of Law Index, a comprehensive measure of the rule of law.

The Turkish government has arrested a total of 2,431 judges and prosecutors and dismissed 4,424 others since a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a Constitutional Court general assembly ruling revealed on early August 2017.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey have been the subject of legal proceedings in the last two years on charges of membership in the Gülen movement since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a Turkish Justice Ministry official told a symposium on July 19, 2018. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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