President of top court criticized for bowing to Erdoğan

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The president of Turkey’s Constitutional Court (AYM), Zühtü Arslan, has been criticized on social media for bowing to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at a Victory Day reception on Wednesday.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Muharrem İnce questioned the neutrality and independence of the judiciary in Turkey, sharing the photo of Arslan bowing to Erdoğan in a tweet.

“Judicial independence with an AYM president who is bowing to the person he might have to try according to the constitution. Who would trust that judiciary?”

Arslan’s photo was shared extensively on social media by users who criticized the attitude of Arslan, who they said supposedly represents the neutral and independent judiciary.

Another CHP deputy, Mahmut Tanal, also commented on the photo and said a judge who gives briefings to the executive branch and stands up for the executive (out of respect) cannot dispense justice.

The independence and impartiality of the Turkish judiciary have been questioned since Turkey’s crackdown on the judiciary in the aftermath of a botched coup attempt last summer.

The Turkish government has arrested a total of 2,431 judges and prosecutors and dismissed 4,424 others since the coup, a recent Constitutional Court general assembly ruling revealed.

A total of 4,664 judges and prosecutors have been investigated, and 2,431 of those were put in pre-trial detention by Turkish courts over alleged involvement in the coup attempt and membership in a “terrorist organization.”

In December, the European Networks of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ) suspended the observer status of Turkey’s Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) and excluded it from participation in ENCJ activities for the mass suspension and dismissal of judges and prosecutors and the failure to comply with the European Standards for Councils for the Judiciary.

On June 8, Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, expressed concern about the new composition of HSYK based on amendments which were approved in April 16 referendum, saying it does not offer adequate safeguards for the independence of the judiciary.

Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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