At least 20 judges from Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals have decided to boycott the opening ceremony of the new judicial year at the presidential palace in Ankara, a judge told the Cumhuriyet daily, following 42 bar associations boycotting the event on the grounds that attendance would damage the independence of the judiciary.
The Turkish Presidency sent invitations to 79 bar associations and the Turkish Bars Association (TBB), the report said.
“The decision to boycott was not taken jointly; every judge has their own reasons,” the judge, whose name was not disclosed, said.
“We are against holding this event under the supervision of the chair of a political party,” the judge added, referring to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is also head of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
While the largest bar associations, including those in İstanbul, İzmir, Ankara and Diyarbakır, have announced a boycott, TBB head Metin Feyzioğlu, who will attend the ceremony, said those criticizing him for his decision not to boycott the ceremony are people who don’t have any worries.
He said he is responsible for thousands of lawyers, adding: “It is not important what those who have no problems say. I care about what those who are after making a living say. Thousands of young lawyers in Turkey don’t even have enough money for a cup of tea.”
The independence of the Turkish judiciary came further into question when the new judicial year opening ceremony held at President Erdoğan’s palace in September 2016 turned into a display of judicial support for Erdoğan.
During the ceremony prosecutors and judges stood up and applauded Erdoğan when he entered the hall and when he finished his address.
Erdoğan’s government is accused of taking the judiciary under its absolute control and punishing dissenting judicial members either by expelling or arresting them.