Turkey’s Justice Minister says over 4,000 judges and prosecutors dismissed since July 15 coup

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ.

Over 4,000 judges and prosecutors have been dismissed from the profession due to alleged membership, contact or affiliations with the Gülen movement, said Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ on Friday as part of Turkish government’s post-coup witch hunt targeting the alleged members of the Gülen movement since the July 15, 2016 coup attempt.

Bozdağ made the comments in a ceremony addressing Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) members during which new public prosecutors will be chosen by the casting of lots. “The first place which started fighting FETÖ was the Turkish judiciary,” Bozdağ said and added that “After the HSYK elections, this struggle continued in accordance with the law… The HSYK has finished its investigation. There are no judges and prosecutors who have not been examined yet…  Of course, due to the structure of this organization, there is no possibility to say that there will be no further examinations.”

According to the t24 news website, the government has dismissed 4,238 of Turkey’s 14,661 judges and prosecutors since July 15.

The government has been criticized for using the coup attempt as an excuse to purge judges and prosecutors and replace them with names close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) İstanbul deputy Barış Yarkadaş recently said the AKP government had recruited for the position of judge 800 lawyers who had ties to the party.

Justice Minister Bozdağ on Aug. 17 announced a government plan to name 8,000 new judges and prosecutors by the end of 2016.

Bozdağ also warned prosecutors and judges about copy-paste indictments and rulings, saying in the long term it negatively affects trust in the judiciary. “I would like to especially say that indictments and decisions have turned out to be a Manas legend. Thousands of pages of indictments, thousands of pages of decisions. That should not be happening, friends. Why does this happen? It is a result of computers. Copy, cut, paste, and it decreases efforts. The facts are lost in thousands of pages,” Bozdağ said.

“When you yourself write a reasoned decision instead of making a copy-paste ruling, that will increase faith in justice,” added Bozdağ.

On Dec 8, 2016, the European Networks of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ) suspended the observer status of Turkey’s Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) and excluded it from participation in ENCJ activities for the mass suspension and dismissal of judges and prosecutors and the failure to comply with the European Standards for Councils for the Judiciary.

Meanwhile, a censure motion by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) on Bozdağ was rejected in a parliamentary vote on Wednesday. The CHP submitted the censure motion against Bozdağ on May 11 on the grounds that the majority of the names of the new list of judges are affiliated with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The motion was rejected by a parliamentary vote of 268 to 105 late on May 24.

“Why didn’t you list all those 800 judges [that you have argued that are affiliated with the AKP]?” Bozdağ said. “If there are 800 judges from the AKP, an honorable and frank person would reveal it to the public. I want all those 800 judges and prosecutors. If you can give those names, I will quit my position as a lawmaker,” Bozdağ said amid raised voices from opposition desks shouting “resign!”

Bozdağ also blasted 62 members of the European Parliament who sent a letter to Bozdağ to express their concerns over the arrest of two educators, Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, who have been on hunger strike for 79 days to demand they be reinstated in their posts after being dismissed by decree laws.

“Turkey’s judiciary is independent,” he said. “They are demanding their immediate release. All of these are decisions of the judiciary. As a justice minister, it is out of the question for me to intervene in the judiciary. It is not possible for me to give orders. Turkey’s judiciary has conducted their duty in an independent, impartial and lawful manner in accordance with conscientious manners, and they will continue to do so.”

The coup attempt on July 15 killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

According to a statement from Justice Minister Bozdağ on May 6, 149,833 people have been investigated and 48,636 have been jailed as part of an investigation targeting the Gülen movement since the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey. (SCF with turkishminute.com) May 26, 2017

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