Turkish opposition deputy: New judges and prosecutors selected from among AKP partisans

CHP deputy Barış Yarkadaş.

Barış Yarkadaş, a deputy from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has stated that newly appointed judges and prosecutors were selected from among lawyers who are partisans of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by autocratic Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Yarkadaş stated on Tuesday that the lawyers were appointed as judges and prosecutors despite having an active role in the AKP organisation. Yarkadaş also claimed that the newly appointed judges and prosecutors received assignments after interviews that lasted a mere 45 seconds. “It is also interesting that most of them were assigned to Ankara and İstanbul provinces,” said Yarkadaş.

Yarkadaş, who criticised a standing ovation given by prosecutor and judge candidates for President Erdoğan, said, “As if this were not enough, they stood up and applauded AKP Chairman Erdoğan. It is not justice but injustice.”

The CHP deputy continued, saying: “The judiciary and justice have never been so miserable [in Turkey]. First, the minimum score of 70 points was abolished for the partisan AKP lawyers so that they could pass the written exam because many pro-AKP lawyers would not have been able to get the required 70 points to become judges or prosecutors. Meanwhile, those who scored 92 points on the exam were failed during the interviews. Those who got 60-65 points in the written exam were given positions after interviews that lasted just 45 seconds. In short, those who have references from the ruling AKP were appointed as judges and prosecutors. Now, will justice come out of this injustice? These judges and prosecutors cannot be members of a just court, but they could be “members of the AKP’s court.”

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has also criticized Turkey’s newly appointed judges and prosecutors for giving President Erdoğan a standing ovation in an assignment ceremony on Monday. “I want to ask all those judges and prosecutors why they stood up. Was it because the leader of a political party arrived? Will they stand up every time a leader arrives?” Kılıçdaroğlu said on Tuesday while addressing his party group in parliament.

His comments came after newly appointed judges and prosecutors attended a ceremony on March 19 where their jurisdictions were determined in a draw. The ceremony taking place at the presidential complex attracted criticism from the opposition, which argued that it was an example of the rising influence overshadowing the judiciary. In previous years, the draw would be held at the Board of Judges and Prosecutor’s (HSK) building or at the main courthouse before the presidential complex was built in 2014.

Criticizing the judges and prosecutors who participated in the standing ovation after Erdoğan delivered an opening speech, Kılıçdaroğlu slammed the new senior judiciary members for “bowing down to the power of the presidency.”

“I am calling on those judges to leave two buttons on their robes undone, which will have the emblem of the presidency. When they come to you, do not just stand up, but button up your robe. One of the buttons will be for executive and the other for legislative. You can button up your robe in front of them… You are not suitable to be members of the judiciary,” he said, referring to a tradition in Turkey where judges and prosecutors do not button up their robes in front of senior politicians.

Kılıçdaroğlu accused the current judiciary members of being influenced by the ruling AKP, while saying the CHP defends an independent judiciary. “But they insist on getting instructions,” he said.

Kılıçdaroğlu recalled a March 8 decision by credit rating agency Moody’s to downgrade Turkey’s debt, citing agency notes that there was an “erosion of checks and balances” in Turkey. “The authority of the judiciary being undermined can clearly be seen by the government’s refusal to honor a Constitutional Court ruling to release certain political prisoners, and a lower court later sentencing the prisoners to life in prison,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, referring to the case of journalists Mehmet Altan, currently in jail, and Şahin Alpay.

The local court had defied Turkey’s top court’s decision on the journalists. Kılıçdaroğlu said the local court should comply with the law.

New judges and prosecutors who went to the Turkish presidential palace on Monday for balloting that will determine their work assignments stood up and applauded President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım in a show of support for them.

The vote was conducted by the Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) for former lawyers who have become judges and prosecutors. It has become common for the members of the Turkish judiciary to show their open support for Erdoğan and his ruling AKP government.

Turkey’s judiciary is being criticized for acting on orders from President 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 WJP is an independent, US-based organisation that aims to advance the rule of law around the world. Its Rule of Law Index is an annual report that measures the rule of law around the world, using primary data and expert opinions. The WJP claims this is the most comprehensive report of its kind in the world.

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.

A comprehensive report titled “Turkey’s descent into arbitrariness: The end of rule of law” published by SCF in April 2017 provides detailed information on how the rule of law has lost meaning in the Turkish context, confirming the effective collapse of all domestic judicial and administrative remedies available for Turkish citizens who lodge complaints for rights violations.

It lists many recent cases showing the ways in which Turkey’s autocratic President Erdoğan and his associates in the government manipulate the judiciary through loyalists and partisans. An unprecedented intimidation campaign against independent judges and prosecutors including unlawful arrests and arbitrary assets seizures was pursued by political authorities

Turkey has jailed more than 50,000 people in the aftermath of a failed coup on July 15,2016 under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. The arrests are seen as being politically motivated and aimed at eliminating Erdoğan’s critics.

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