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Gul may sign contentious Judicial appointments bill

20 February 2014

Turkish President Gul has announced that he has signed the Internet legislation bill after government officials promised to amend two contentious articles in the bill.

This move will have disappointed those at home and abroad and calls into question Gul’s democratic credentials.

“In order to give the opportunity for these amendments to be made rapidly, I approved the law in front of me as soon as I returned from Hungary,” Gul wrote on his Twitter account.

According to the first amendment proposed by the ruling AKP following Gul’s reservations, it will become obligatory for the head of the Communications Authority (TIB) to send his decision to court within 24 hours. The amendment also says that the court should make a decision within 24 hours, failing which head of TIB’s decision would become void.

According to a second amendment, all information on Internet traffic will be collected based on IP numbers and subscriber numbers, instead of URLs, which was criticised as being a more stealthy method.

The president, an avid user of Twitter, once memorably tweeted in 2011 that “Anyone who wants it should be able to roam freely on the Internet.”

Further concerns have been raised as President Gul has indicated that he would also sign off on the recently passed bill which will allow the government to select members of the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK.)

The law has drawn harsh criticism, as it gives the executive branch great power over the judiciary. Drastic changes will be made to Turkey’s judicial system if the HSYK law is approved by the president. The law allows the undersecretary of the Ministry of Justice to be elected chairman of the HSYK. In addition, the law empowers the justice minister in the HSYK in a number of ways, such as authorising him to reshape the composition of all three chambers of the board and initiate disciplinary procedures against HSYK members.

The recent moves by the Turkish government, which has been seeking membership of the European Union for decades, have raised concern in Brussels, which fears it is shifting further away from EU norms, and unnerved investors in a country whose stability over the past decade has been based on Erdogan’s firm rule.

Socialist Group leader and one of the most senior politicians of the European Parliament Hannes Swoboda, reacted strongly to the new law on judicial selection. Swoboda said the law was an outright attack on the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.

The fear is that President Gul’s recent approval of the internet bill appears to pave the way to ratifying the judiciary bill, raising questions on the president’s support of a democracy in Turkey.

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