Turkey’s Parliamentary Speaker, Cemil Cicek has warned that judicial independence in Turkey has been wiped out.
The government has been heavily criticised for obstructing justice after an investigation into corruption involving four ministers was launched.
“Article 138 of the Constitution has become extinct in this country,” said Cicek of the particular Article that deals with judicial independence.
He stressed that everyone had a duty to respect the law, and justice was only achievable by the rule of law. “By interpreting a judicial verdict in a way that suits our purposes, we are politicising the judiciary,” the Speaker said
Opposition parties slammed the government for impeding the first investigation and blocking the second one which allegedly implicates Prime Minister Erdogan’s son, Bilal Erdogan.
Article 138 of the Constitution says:
“Judges shall be independent in the discharge of their duties; … No organ, authority, office or individual may give orders or instructions to courts or judges regarding the exercise of judicial power, send them circulars, make recommendations or suggestions. … No questions shall be asked, debates held or statements made in the Legislative Assembly relating to the exercise of judicial power concerning a case under trial.”
A day or so after the first corruption investigation began on 17th December, Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Turan Colakkadi appointed, apparently on government instructions, two extra prosecutors to the ongoing corruption probe, which opposition parties maintained was a move to water down and hinder the investigation.
Since the launch of the investigation, the government has replaced hundreds of high-level police officers in various cities, including those who were, under the instruction of prosecutors, conducting an investigation that allegedly revealed that three ministers had been bribed by an Iranian businessman. The government has accused the prosecutors and police chiefs who launched and carried out the investigation of being part of a Western plot against the government.
Cicek, who drew attention to the fact that Turkey is among the countries where separation of powers most often becomes a contentious subject, said: “We are the first in violating the rules we ourselves put into place. I can cite countless examples for you.”
One week after the first investigation began, phase two, which was to be led by public prosecutor, Muammer Akkas, and allegedly implicates the Prime Minister’s son, it emerged that police officers had disregarded the prosecutor’s instructions to make arrests. Immediately afterwards Akkas, who maintained that he had been prevented from performing his duty in the investigation, was removed from his post. The prosecutor’s removal came only a day after he had ordered the detention of 30 suspects, including a number of deputies and businessmen.
The Speaker of the the House was also critical of the attitude of the government towards the second phase of the corruption probe. In reference to Akkas’ case, he said: “No [public] body, nor the executive can in any way amend the verdicts of the courts. They cannot delay the implementation of those verdicts as well.” Critical of the delayed handling of decisions made by the judiciary, Cicek said: “The legislative and executive organs need to respect the verdicts handed out by the courts of law.”
As part of the first graft probe, prosecutors asked Parliament to lift the immunity of four government ministers, three of whom resigned after the Dec. 17 raids. The other was removed in a later Cabinet reshuffle. The government not only paid no attention to the prosecutor’s demand, but also amended police regulations to require officers to notify their superiors before carrying out prosecutors’ instructions in investigations.
In the current corruption probe in which former ministers, Muammer Guler, Zafer Caglayan, Erdogan Bayraktar, together with their sons, and Egemen Bagis have been implicated, the amendment have obliged the police to inform the interior minister that they were investigating his son.
The president of the Turkish Bar Association (TBB), Metin Feyzioglu was heavily critical of the government for interfering with the judiciary, saying that if a governor is preventing security officials from complying with a prosecutor’s orders, the state structure has been turned upside down.