Supreme court members issue joint declaration against gov’t plan to redesign top judiciary

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Some members of the Supreme Court of Appeals have issued a joint declaration against a new bill drafted by the government to reassign a majority of judges in the supreme courts to local courts, arguing that the government aims at elimination.

According to the declaration, the draft bill aims at “actually bringing the judiciary under control of the executive body by making courts formed of members that are loyal to the executive body.”

Many the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State members do not raise their voices against the draft bill reportedly due to the expectation that they might be reappointed to their positions if they do not object.

Some members of the Supreme Court of Appeals – who agree that the draft bill is against the Constitution — reportedly argue that the government aims at eliminating not only those sympathetic to the Gülen movement, but also social democrats and nationalists within the judiciary.

They claim that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) plans to bring under control the 151 members of the Supreme Court of Appeals – which is the absolute majority – by decreasing the total number of members from 516 to 300 with the draft bill.

It is also reported that nationalists, social democrats and Gülen movement sympathizers – that allegedly form the majority of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) – plans to oppose the reappointments if they are not done lawfully.

The new draft bill introducing amendments to the laws on the foundation and inner workings of the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State was submitted to Parliament for approval on Monday, raising concerns that the government will have more power over the judiciary.

If the new bill passes Parliament, the number of chambers in the Supreme Court of Appeals will drop from 46 to 24, half of which will be criminal chambers. Also the number of judges and prosecutors serving for the Supreme Court of Appeals, which is currently 516, will be reduced to 200.

The Council of State will be downsized to 10 chambers from 17, while the number of judges and prosecutors at the top judicial body will go down to 90 from 195. The memberships will be dropped within five days of the enactment of the law.

Metin Feyzioğlu — the head of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) –, Murat Arslan — the president of the Union of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV) – and Professor Sami Selçuk — the Honorary President of the Supreme Court of Appeals – also responded harshly to the newly drafted bill, arguing that it is an attempt to refurnish the top judiciary with pro-government judges and prosecutors.

Since a corruption investigation came to public attention on Dec. 17, 2013, many operations have been carried out targeting shopkeepers, teachers, members of the judiciary, journalists and police officers who are accused of being affiliated with the Gülen movement, a grassroots initiative comprising people inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. The graft probe implicated then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, members of his family and senior AK Party figures.

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