In Turkey / Türkiye

Hurriyet Daily News, July 1, 2016

ANKARA -Parliament has approved a controversial law radically shaping the structure of two top supreme judicial institutions, despite serious criticisms that the move will end judicial independence and neutrality in Turkey.

Turkish Parliament (Anadalou Agency photo)

Turkish Parliament (Anadalou Agency photo)

The move was inspired by the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) bid to purge alleged members of the Gülen movement from critical judicial positions, but is slammed by opposition parties as yet another crude power grab by the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Immediately after the passing of the bill at parliament, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) applied for its annulment at the Constitutional Court, saying the changes are unconstitutional.

The 38-article law was passed at the General Assembly after three days of marathon sessions that witnessed tension between ruling and opposition lawmakers.

According to the law, the number of judges at the Supreme Court of Appeals will be reduced from 516 to 200, while the number of judges at the Council of State will drop from 195 to 90. All members of both courts will be dismissed on the day the law will go into force except for their presidents, who will retain their positions despite the change in the law.

Supreme Court of Appeals President İsmail Rüştü Cirit and Council of State head Zerrin Güngör recently attracted severe criticism from opposition parties for accompanying President Erdoğan on domestic trips.

The new members of both courts will be selected by the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) within five days of the law going into effect, with a number of members of the Council of State to be directly appointed by President Erdoğan. Those who will not continue their jobs in the supreme justice bodies will be reappointed to other judicial institutions within 10 days.

Another measure against the Gülen community

Meanwhile, the tenure of judges of both courts will be limited to 12 years, although existing laws have allowed judges to remain in their positions until the retirement age of 65. The number of chambers at the Council of State will also be reduced from 17 to 10, while the 46 chambers of the Supreme Court of Appeals will be reduced to 23. The law also restricts the responsibilities of the Council of State as a court of appeals.

The move is regarded as part of yet another measure to purge sympathizers of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen from state institutions. The government’s fight against what it calls the “parallel structure” controlled by the Gülenist movement began in December 2013, after the launch of a massive corruption and fraud investigation with links to four former ministers. The Gülen movement was recently declared a terrorist organization by Turkey’s top security board, the National Security Council (MGK).

The Gülenists are accused of trying to overthrow the government – an erstwhile ally – by using their influence in the judiciary and police. [In March of 2016, the Turkish government forcibly took over the newspaper inspired by the Gulen movement, Zaman. It was Turkey’s largest circulation newspaper. Report here.]

CHP takes it to top court 

The CHP applied to the Constitutional Court on July 1, immediately after the passing of the bill at parliament, for its annulment. CHP Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair Levent Gök submitted his party’s appeal to the top court, saying the bill was “in full violation of the constitution and aimed to end judicial independence and neutrality.”

Additional news from Turkey:

People’s Democratic Party blames Turkish gov’t for forest fires in southeast

By Emine Kart, Hurriyet Daily News, June 29, 2016

ANKARA – The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has accused Turkish security forces of deliberately starting forest fires in the region as a “war strategy of the state.”

Forest fires being set by Turkish military in Antalya region of southeast Turkey (EPA, in Hurriyet Daily News photo gallery)

Forest fires being set by Turkish military in Antalya region of southeast Turkey (EPA, in Hurriyet Daily News photo gallery)

“President Erdoğan’s and the AKP government’s politics of war in the country’s Kurdish provinces since July 2015 have reached alarming proportions. Unlawful round-the-clock curfews and military operations continue to harm the civilian population and ecology of the region. The heavy damage that last week’s forest fires and the so-called security measures inflicted on the people of Lice [a district in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır] once again illustrates the destructive face of war,” Hişyar Özsoy, vice co-chair of the HDP, said in a written statement released on June 28.

HDP Bingöl deputy Özsoy, who also serves as the party’s deputy co-chair in charge of external affairs, claimed that the main arteries and village roads have been blocked by security forces, who control and prevent both entries or exits, he claimed.

“Citizens living in the peripheral villages where clashes occur say that soldiers do not allow them to exit, and when they can exit helicopters harass them. Alongside these forms of violence against the local people and the blatant curtailment of freedoms on the grounds of security, forest fires constitute a major form of havoc that the war causes in Lice and other Kurdish provinces. During the military operation in Lice, approximately 50,000 acres burned down as a result of the aerial bombings by F-16s or Skorsky helicopters. Forest fires have started and still go on in 150 points near the villages in the Lice, Hani, Kocaköy, and Hazro districts. The fires destroyed a majority of the wheat farms which constitute a major source of income in the region.

Attempts to reach citizens in these villages have failed. Meanwhile, special operations units have forcefully evacuated villages and founded mobile stations to use these villages as military bases,” said Özsoy, a member of the national assembly’s Committee on Foreign Affairs and of the Turkish delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCEPA).

“Forest fires that are deliberately started by security forces should be seen as one of the war strategies of the state,” Özsoy said.

Related photo gallery

French MP Coronado: We will stand by the HDP, ANF News, June 28, 2016

French MP Coronado spoke in a press conference held in the French Parliament and said “HDP is the only force struggling against Turkey and the AKP government.”

Turkish aid ship for Gaza arrives at Israeli port, Hurriyet Daily News, July 3, 2016

… The ship set sail on June 30 following a reconciliation deal reached between Turkey and Israel on June 27, after six years of strained relations.

Diplomatic ties between the two countries were suspended after Israeli troops stormed the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara aid ship in international waters in 2010, killing 10 Turkish activists. In the aftermath of the attack, Turkey demanded a formal apology from Israel, compensation for the families of those killed, and the lifting of Israel’s Gaza blockade.


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