Parliament gives government more control over judiciary

Turkey’s parliament approved a law giving the government more control over the appointment of judges and prosecutors on Saturday, after heated debate and a brawl in which an opposition member of parliament was hospitalized.

The decision to approve the law came after a night of heated debate and a brawl that left one opposition member of parliament with a bloody nose. Media reported that Ali ihsan Kökturk, deputy for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), was hospitalized with a broken nose.

The debate lasted from 1400 (1200 GMT) on Friday and finished at 1000 on Saturday, with 210 members voting in support of the bill and 28 voting against.

On Friday, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government reintroduced to Parliament its plans to restructure the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), the country’s key judicial body that is responsible for the appointment and promotion of judges and prosecutors. A bill drafted by the ruling party to this end was opened to a vote in Parliament in January. However, after its 21 articles were approved by Parliament, the bill was suspended on Jan. 24. The AK Party said it had a mandate to bring the bill back onto Parliament’s agenda whenever it deemed it necessary.

The HSYK bill has been vehemently criticized by opposition parties, who claim that the bill, which gives the executive a much tighter grip on the judiciary, would do away with judicial independence. If enacted, the bill also allows the justice minister to initiate disciplinary procedures for HSYK members and envisages the firing of all administrative staff, including the secretary-general and his deputies.

The change represents a major regress from a government-backed constitutional referendum in 2010 which brought a more democratic and pluralistic structure to the HSYK, where most members are elected by their own community of some 12,000 judges and prosecutors.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) announced on Friday that it will appeal the HSYK bill in the Constitutional Court if it is approved in Parliament. The party said it will not wait for the legislation to make its way into the Official Gazette for its appeal.

Source: Today’s Zaman

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