A ceremony marking the opening of the new judicial year, which was protested by the main opposition leader and the head of the bar association because of the venue of the event, turned into a display of judicial support for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday.
During the ceremony, held at the presidential palace, prosecutors and judges stood up and applauded Erdoğan when he entered the hall and when he finished his address.
In his speech Erdoğan criticized main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) Chairman Metin Feyzioğlu, who decided not to attend the ceremony at the palace due to concerns that the venue would cast a shadow on judicial independence.
“The holding of a ceremony at the palace of the nation by a judiciary who works on behalf of the nation does not cast a shadow over judicial independence; it instead strengthens it,” said Erdoğan as he praised opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli for his participation. Erdoğan underlined that all state institutions will hold meetings at the palace’s Congress and Cultural Center.
Praising the judiciary for its work following a bloody coup attempt on July 15, Erdoğan said, “As the judicial, legislative and executive [branches of government], we will carry out our responsibilities, which have become heavier since July 15.”
‘National interests’ criteria for judiciary
Putting “national interests” as the only criteria for all institutions including the judiciary, Erdoğan continued:
“The nation did its best that night [July 15]. Now it is our turn as the judiciary, legislature and executive. We need to work differently from now on. We don’t have the right to work according to any criteria other than national interests and the needs of our nation and state. Before July 15 and after it are different. It must be different.”
While criticizing the Gülen movement for its alleged plan “to take control of the state for 40 years,” Erdoğan expressed satisfaction with the opportunity that the July 15 coup attempt created to purge the movement.
‘Praising Allah for July 15 opportunity’
“I see July 15 as being ‘a good scare is worth more than good advice.’ There are 241 martyrs and 2,194 wounded, but I praise Allah for this kind of opportunity. I believe that our Turkey, our nation, will win and that we will walk towards the future with a new beginning.”
Pointing out the duty of judges, prosecutors and lawyers after the coup attempt, Erdoğan added: “FETÖ [an abbreviation used by the government for the Gülen movement labeling it as a terrorist organization] has already been sentenced in the heart of our nation. The duty of judges, prosecutors and lawyers is to work for justice and to hasten this process. We need to finalize it in law as quickly as possible.”
Erdoğan also claimed that the detention of 3,495 judges and prosecutors as part of the purge following the coup attempt will not create a weakness, but rather will pave the way for real justice.