Top appeals court president raises public concerns over Turkish judiciary

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ANKARA, TURKEY - 05 SEPTEMBER: President of the Court of Cassation, Ismail Rustu Cirit delivers a speech during 2017-2018 judicial year opening day ceremony at Supreme Court of Appeals in Ankara, Turkey on September 5, 2017. AFP

Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals President İsmail Rüştü Cirit has said there are serious concerns among the public over the judicial system in Turkey, especially after government purges of a third of the judiciary following a failed coup last year.

Speaking during the opening ceremony for the new judicial year in Ankara on Tuesday, Cirit supported government decrees that purged more than 4,400 prosecutors and judges over alleged links to the coup attempt and said: “Although the dismissal of judges and prosecutors who are members of terrorist organizations is remarkable achievement, the fact that about one-third of judges and prosecutors were in the middle of terrorist activities has made people lose confidence in the judicial system.”

Judicial independence cannot be achieved in a system where the public does not have faith in the judiciary,” he said.

Meanwhile, former justice minister and current Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ tweeted that the Turkish judiciary is more just and relied on the law more than the European and US judiciaries.

It doesn’t matter what people say. The Turkish judiciary is more dependent on the law and more just than any judiciary in Europe or the US,” he tweeted.

Speaking to Saygı Öztürk from the Sözcü daily on Tuesday, Supreme Court of Appeals Honorary President Sami Selçuk said public confidence in the Turkish judiciary is as low as 30 percent, although it used to be as high as 81 percent.

Criticizing government interference in the judicial system with decrees and purges following the failed coup, Selçuk said, “No one, other than the government, believes the Turkish judiciary is independent and impartial.”

Also speaking with Sözcü, Turkish Bar Associations President Metin Feyzioğlu criticized the Justice Ministry for not giving him the opportunity to speak at the opening ceremony and said he decided not to attend after seeing that he was invited as a part of the audience, not as a speaker.

During the judicial year opening ceremony in 2014, a quarrel between Erdoğan and Feyzioğlu erupted after Feyzioğlu, during his speech, strongly criticized Erdoğan and the government for intervening in the judicial system.

In 2016 the ceremony was held at the presidential complex, where a president, Erdoğan, for the first time delivered a speech at the event. The Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB), bar associations in Ankara, İstanbul and the Aegean city of İzmir, and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) refused to attend the ceremony due to the change of venue.

The ceremony once again was held at Supreme Court of Appeals this year.

On the other hand, the İstanbul Bar Association released a statement on Tuesday on the opening of the new judicial year and criticized an ongoing state of emergency (OHAL) and government decrees (KHK), saying the government is using OHAL and KHKs to instruct the judiciary.

Criticizing long pretrial detentions without indictment, barring lawyers’ access to information on their clients’ cases and the arrest of lawyers, judges and prosecutors over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the statement said that “there is no justice without a defense and there is no defense without justice.”

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