TZ: ‘Over 100 AK Party affiliated judges appointed to high criminal courts’

More than 100 judges who previously served within the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) have been appointed to positions in high criminal courts, Today’s Zaman has learned.
The appointments were made following the adoption of a law proposed by the AK Party government to restructure the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) in Parliament in late February. Today’s Zaman has learned that 110 members of the judiciary who served in various positions within the AK Party or ran for political office representing the AK Party are now serving as judges in high criminal courts across Turkey.

These members of the judiciary had been practicing attorneys and became judges only three months before the HSYK law was passed.

The judges have been appointed to high criminal courts in major provinces, including İstanbul, Ankara, İzmir and Adana in violation of the tradition surrounding judicial promotion. Typically, only judges with a minimum of 15 years experience on the bench are appointed to these courts, yet these AK Party-affiliated judges have been appointed to high-profile positions with no previous experience as judges at all.

The judges will now deal with a number of major criminal cases, including a large corruption and bribery investigation that has implicated Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and several members of his government.

Other prominent and likely to be provocative cases to be heard by these judges include the case related to the death of the late Grand Unity Party (BBP) Chairman Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu, who died in a suspicious helicopter crash in 2009, and that of the brutal killing of three Christian missionaries in a publishing house in Malatya in 2007.

The controversial appointments of these judges come just weeks after an audio recording allegedly of a conversation between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and former Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin was leaked in which the two were apparently discussing how to control the Supreme Court of Appeals. A voice believed to belong to Ergin was heard saying, “Nearly 2,000 friends who were lawyers practicing in the private sector are being transferred into the system.”

The recording was posted on Twitter by an anonymous user in early March.

In mid-February, Emine Ülker Tarhan, a deputy from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), submitted a parliamentary question in which she asked if pro-AK Party judges and prosecutors were being used by the government to conceal evidence of corruption in the graft probe. The parliamentary question followed claims that a huge number of lawyers who were recently given positions as judges and prosecutors by the state had previously served within the AK Party. Tarhan noted that although there is no legal obstacle to former members of the AK Party serving in the judiciary, this is unacceptable in terms of judicial ethics.

The appointment of judges with recent ties to the AK Party to high criminal courts will also impact the course of ongoing major investigations. The government is currently working on a plan to make it a requirement for decisions to authorize wiretapping to be unanimous in the courts concerned. Currently, only the approval of a majority of the judges is necessary. In late January, Prime Minister Erdoğan expressed his uneasiness with the wiretapping conducted by public prosecutors and he indicated that the government will take steps to decrease that activity.

In Turkey, prosecutors often wiretap the phone conversations of suspects to monitor and expose criminal activity.

With AK Party-affiliated judges being appointed to high criminal courts, it will probably be more difficult for prosecutors to obtain authority from those courts to conduct legal wiretaps on suspects.

A judge who ordered the arrest of six police officers in Adana last week in the course of an investigation of claims of illegal wiretapping drew criticism for expressing his strong support for Prime Minister Erdoğan on Facebook.

On March 28, the judge wrote, “We love you R.T. Erdoğan because those who don’t love you don’t love this nation. Because Zionist Israel and its collaborators don’t love you. Because all oppressed people and Muslims in the world love you. Because you are one who is of this nation. May God protect you and help you succeed. For all of our sakes. Amen.”

To read full story, click here.



About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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