CHP Leader Decries High Court Chiefs for Joining President on Visit
Turkey’s main opposition leader has severely criticized the heads of the country’s supreme courts for accompanying President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a visit to the Black Sea province of Rize, stating that the judicial chiefs have “dealt the biggest blow to justice.”
It is “unacceptable,” Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said in Istanbul on May 28. “These [figures] cannot deliver justice. Let me express with sadness; they always say that it is politicians who deal the biggest blow to justice, but the biggest blow has been dealt by those persons at the head of the judiciary; they have politicized the judiciary.”
Kılıçdaroğlu made the comments after a journalist told him “it drew attention that they applauded when Erdoğan was criticizing your party most recently in Kırşehir.”
“They may feel themselves close to the ruling party but they need to take off their gowns, they need to leave that post. If they are applauding, then they should come to parliament, they should take off their gowns and whether it’s ‘the dress’ or ‘the identity,’ whatever they want, they should put it on and come to parliament and enter politics,” he said. “Such a scene has never taken place in the history of the republic.”
Supreme Court of Appeals President İsmail Rüştü Cirit, Council of State President Zerrin Güngör and Court of Accounts President Recai Akyel accompanied Erdoğan during his visits to Rize and Kırşehir, listening to his speeches in the front seats allocated to them according to the rules of protocol.
Photographs showing Cirit, Güngör and Akyel while picking tea leaves along with Erdoğan and his spouse, Emine Erdoğan, during the visit to Rize, known as Turkey’s “tea capital,” found wide coverage in media.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ dismissed the interpretation of the visits as an indication that the “judiciary has lost its independence,” calling such an interpretation “a big mistake.”
“It is a concrete indication that the formalistic mindset has still been holding us captive,” Bozdağ said May 29, while responding to questions from reporters in parliament.
Also May 29, Bozdağ posted a series of messages on his official Twitter account, defending the presidents of the supreme courts.
“Distorting the applause of the presidents of the Council of State/the Supreme Court of Appeals regarding the good news the president gave about a dormitory in Kırşehir as if [it were] applause for criticism of the CHP is indecent,” Bozdağ said on Twitter.
But Özgür Özel, the deputy parliamentary leader of the CHP, said Bozdağ “has turned into a press counsel and mentor” of the senior judicial chiefs by posting such messages.
“Those who need to chase Reza Zarrab and the four [former] ministers have been following the Reis around and rushing around tea fields,” Özel said May 29 in response to questions from reporters while at parliament.
Erdoğan, the founding leader of the AKP, is referred by some party members as the “Reis,” or the leader.
“They have been following the Reis around and they have been trying to find favor in his eyes by applauding him during visits to Central Anatolia. We are complaining about this to our nation,” Özel said.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has included Turkey’s vast 2013 corruption probe in the case into Zarrab, the shady Iranian-born Turkish businessman who was arrested in Miami in March for attempting to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Four former cabinet members, former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, former Interior Minister Muammer Güler, former EU Minister Egemen Bağış and former Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar were accused in the probe before they were acquitted.