Turkey’s top judge has harshly slammed the government over its interventions into the judiciary and its strongly worded criticisms of the Constitutional Court’s verdicts, accusing it of committing “a corruption of conscience” against justice.
“Accusing the Constitutional Court of having political purposes or of issuing ‘non-national verdicts’ is a shallow accusation,” Constitutional Court Head Haşim Kılıç said in his address on the occasion of the 52nd anniversary of the court’s foundation.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, who had slammed the court’s verdict to lift the ban on Twitter, accusing it of “not serving Turkey’s national interests,” were also present at the ceremony.
“In states under the rule of law, courts neither work according to orders and instructions nor are they directed by friendships and enmities. The [Twitter] ruling merely determined that an executive procedure has no legal basis,” Kılıç said.
The Constitutional Court’s recent verdicts lifting the Twitter block and partially annulling the law on the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) have been repeatedly slammed by government figures, some of whom have floated plans to restrict the scope of individual application to court.
Kılıç addressed such moves directly, recalling former Mikhail Gorbachev’s statement on the eve of the collapse of the Soviet Union: “In this age of globalization, you cannot issue visas to antennas.”
Stressing that his court would continue to distribute justice with determination by promoting rights and freedoms to all 76 million citizens, Kılıç indirectly accused the government of trying to “occupy the judiciary by imposing a new sort of tutelage.”
“Those who occupy the castle used the judiciary as a tool of revenge against their adversaries and to provide logistical support for their ideological opinions. It’s a dream to build an independent judiciary unless it gets rid of such an understanding and occupation. A judiciary under tutelage cannot provide legal safety,” he said.
The Constitutional Court president also touched on the government’s ongoing fight against what it calls the “parallel state,” expressing concern that many judges and prosecutors were being profiled as members of this alleged organization.
“The judiciary is not and should not be a place for setting a trap for the people’s will. The judiciary has recently been confronted with a heavy accusation, being described as a ‘parallel state’ and a gang. It’s not possible for the judiciary to survive as long as this accusation is there,” he said.
“Today, even the simplest court decisions are subject to discussion and confidence in the judiciary is badly damaged,” Kılıç said, adding that the government should “document and investigate” the claims rather than engage in massive purges of judicial officials.
Erdoğan had slammed the Constitutional Court’s verdict that the government’s Twitter block was unconstitutional, saying he “does not respect the decision.” He has since made an individual application to the court demanding that the block on Twitter be reintroduced on the grounds that his personal rights were breached on the social media website.
The court had ordered authorities to lift the ban on Twitter on April 2, adding that it constituted a violation of free speech guaranteed by Article 26 of the Constitution.
During his speech on April 25, Kılıç repeated that the judges “understand” all the reactions. However, “We don’t have a character that can keep changing shirts. In the same way that we stood by the citizens whose rights were violated yesterday, we will keep standing by them against anyone today,” Kılıç said.
Also condemning “hate speech” spurred by political motives, Kılıç warned of an “emotional disengagement” in the society. “We can promise you that our determined stance to protect the value of human honor will continue,” he added.
Erdoğan (left) expressed discomfort on a number of occasions throughout Kılıç’s speech, checking his watch frequently and whispering to Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan. Erdoğan left the court’s premises soon after Kılıç’s speech finished, without attending the reception.