Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ has condemned main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for ‘targeting and threatening the judiciary while a prosecution is still ongoing’, CNN Türk reported on Friday.
According to the report, Bozdağ also criticized the CHP’s “March of Justice,” saying justice was not to be sought in the streets but in impartial courts and claimed Kılıçdaroğlu was inviting people into the street to examine court decisions.
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu kicked off a march from Güven Park in Turkey’s capital of Ankara to İstanbul in protest of the arrest of CHP deputy Enis Berberoğlu.
A high criminal court in İstanbul on Wednesday handed down a prison sentence of 25 years to Berberoğlu for leaking information for a report on National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks transporting weapons to jihadists in Syria, sending him to prison immediately after the ruling was announced.
“Judges who are working independently and impartially render their verdicts leaving aside their and the involved parties’ political, religious, philosophical, ethical, cultural and economic differences; they don’t pay attention to parties’ names, labels, titles, positions, prestige and profession; they never let external factors to influence their decisions,” Bozdağ said.
“Making statements that will illegally affect the process while a prosecution is ongoing and targeting the judiciary, provoking and threatening them, is an obvious crime. These rules and restrictions, which guarantee the independence and impartiality of the courts, are binding for all, including Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu. Praising or criticizing the judiciary depending on one’s own interests is the product of an opposition mentality that has not yet embraced the principle of a constitutional state,” Bozdağ added.
As opposed to what Bozdağ said, the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan came under fire for putting pressure on the judiciary and influencing its independence.
According to the t24 news website, the government has dismissed 4,238 of Turkey’s 14,661 judges and prosecutors since July 15, due to alleged links to the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15.
A total of 448 of the 1,004 judges and prosecutors are in jail, while 400 have been released on judicial probation.
The government has been criticized for using the coup attempt as an excuse to purge judges and prosecutors and replace them with names close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Erdoğan.
Main opposition CHP İstanbul deputy Barış Yarkadaş recently said the AKP government had recruited for the position of judge 800 lawyers who had ties to the party.
Justice Minister Bozdağ on Aug. 17 announced a government plan to name 8,000 new judges and prosecutors by the end of 2016.
On Dec. 8, 2016, 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.