Turkey’s top judicial body dismisses 66 more judges, prosecutors

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Prosecutors and judges stood up and applauded President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when he entered the hall and when he finished his address during a ceremony on Sept. 1 opening the new judicial year, which was held for the first time at the presidential palace and protested by the main opposition leader and the head of the bar association because of the venue of the event.

Turkey’s top judicial body, the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), has dismissed 66 more judges and prosecutors over alleged ties to the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization, a term the government uses to describe the Gülen movement.

The official Anadolu news agency reported that the judges and prosecutors were dismissed after the completion of an investigation into their alleged ties to the Gülen movement.

The number of judges and prosecutors who have been fired has reached 3,456 since a July 15 coup attempt in Turkey.

A total of 543 judges and prosecutors were dismissed by the HSYK on Sept.1 as a ceremony for the opening of the new judicial year was taking place at the presidential palace.

The ceremony, which was protested by the main opposition leader and the head of the national bar association because of the venue of the event, turned into a display of judicial support for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Speaking at the ceremony Erdoğan claimed that the detention of 3,495 judges and prosecutors as part of a purge following the coup attempt would not create weakness but rather would pave the way for real justice.

“National interest” is the only criterion for all institutions including the judiciary, Erdoğan said and added: “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 interest and the needs of our nation and state. Before July 15 and after it are different. It must be different.”

“Jailing judges without even the pretense of due process will cause profound damage to Turkey’s justice system for years to come,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, Turkey director at Human Rights Watch, in August. “Bypassing the rule of law is no way to protect it.”

There are 14.661 prosecutors and judges working as part of the Turkish justice system.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ announced on Aug. 17 a government plan to name 8,000 new judges and prosecutors by the end of 2016.

Moves made by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) concerning the judicial system have created further concern about government control of the judiciary.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu strongly criticized the ceremony opening the new judicial year at the presidential palace, saying judicial independence is now “in the service of the executioner.”

Remarking on the content of speeches at the ceremony, the CHP leader said: “You [Erdoğan] make political statements during a judicial ceremony. You declare some things a crime. This was a disgraceful meeting. You politicized the judiciary. How can you expect them to make just decisions? He [Erdoğan] asks the judiciary to speed up the judicial process. What kind of democracy is this?”

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