Judges, prosecutors say top court chief’s speech timely, comforting

A recent speech made by Constitutional Court President Hasim Kilic in which he firmly denied accusations of politicization, saying the court will not bow to any orders and will not take instructions from anyone, has received the thumbs-up from judges and prosecutors, who said the speech was made just at the right time and has come as a relief to members of the judiciary.

The judges and prosecutors shared their views on Kilic’s speech on adalet.org, a web portal only for members of the judiciary.

Kilic made his speech on Friday during a ceremony to mark the 52nd anniversary of the establishment of the Constitutional Court. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoGan, who has clashed with judges over a series of rulings, and President Abdullah Gul were among the audience during Kilic’s speech.

A public prosecutor using the initials M.A. wrote on adalet.org that Kilic’s stance should be a model for all jurists “someone had to say something [in the wake of the attacks by the government on the judiciary] and it was Kilic. Was it the right time and place? It was the best time and place to do so. That place is not Kilic’s guesthouse and the meeting was an official one. The audience was not guests,” the prosecutor wrote.

Government members who criticized Kilic for his speech, however, said it was rude of him to rebuke the government during a meeting where the prime minister and the president were his guests.

E.O, another public prosecutor, said Kilic has again done the right thing, in reference to a closure case filed against the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government in 2008 where he was also criticized back then for acting politically.

When the AK Party faced the closure case over charges of being a “focal point of anti-secular activities,” the top court ruled against the party’s closure, receiving the appreciation of democratic circles and the government.

“He [Kilic] did not take a backward step from what he saw as true and was appreciated. I wonder how Kilic’s position has changed in the eyes of the government all of a sudden. I congratulate the chief justice for his commitment to the truth,” the prosecutor said.

Public prosecutor B.Y. wrote that Kilic’s statements, which he said were made just at the right time and place, came as a relief to members of the judiciary, who have been feeling anxious over the recent criticisms of the judiciary.

A judge who used the initials F.S. wrote that he agrees with most of Kilic’s statements considering the incorrect approaches to the judiciary in Turkey over the past years.

With regards to criticisms that Kilic’s strongly worded speech ran contrary to the principle of hospitality because the prime minister was his guest, the judge wrote: “In general, hospitality is an attitude among individuals or family members and is not an attitude that can be taken considering the problems of a country, judicial problems in particular, with a population of 75 million.”

Another judge A.B. said if the judiciary has to defend itself in a country, that means there is a problem in that country.

“The prime minister of a country does not have any more privileges than an ordinary citizen in a state of law. But the law is the name of something approved by the mighty in our country,” the judge wrote.

Retired members of the judiciary, such as retired public prosecutor Mete GOkturk and retired military judge umit Kardas, also lent their support to Kilic, saying the chief justice’s speech defended judges and their principles.

“I don’t find Kilic’s statements harsh. I support them for democracy. Those who find Kilic’s criticisms heavy have no tolerance for criticism. When politicians make the wrong decisions about the law, it is not simit [Turkish bagel] sellers who will criticize them. It is certainly the head of the top court who will respond to them. His [Kilic’s] criticisms are perfectly justified,” GOkturk said.

Kardas said Kilic’s speech was one that defended the state of law and the supremacy of the law but his style of speaking could have been a little softer.

According to the retired judge, it was Prime Minister ErdoGan’s criticisms of the top court which prompted Kilic to make such a speech.

“The judiciary has been subjected to many insults and verbal attacks recently. The effectiveness of the judiciary has been weakened and its members have been demoralized. It is not possible for judges to respond to the criticisms of politicians. Kilic’s defense of members of the judiciary and the courts will boost their morale,” Kardas said.

Kilic’s harsh remarks came amidst a deepening schism between the judiciary and the government over the latter’s policies aimed at placing the judiciary under its control. The AK Party government passed a law in February that effectively reshuffled the supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HsYK), giving the executive branch a much tighter grip on the judiciary.

The conflict between the Constitutional Court and the government took on a new dimension in mid-April, when the prime minister directed harsh criticism at the court’s judges after the court partially annulled the HsYK law and lifted a government-backed block on the microblogging website Twitter.

Referring to the court’s ruling on Twitter, ErdoGan said the Constitutional Court was defending the rights of an international company instead of defending the rights of its own nation. The prime minister also said he did not respect the court’s decisions.

Professor Nurullah Aydin, a lecturer on criminal justice at Ankara-based Gazi university, interpreted Kilic’s remarks as a rebellion against the unlawful practices of a despotic government.

He said Kilic had stressed the impartiality and independence of the judiciary in his speech, which he said was aimed at ending the polemics between the government and the judiciary in the country.

Another show of support for Kilic came from the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TusKON), which said in a press statement on sunday that Kilic’s warnings need to be taken into consideration.

“The criticisms of the Constitutional Court president, which he made after receiving the approval of all members of the court, concerning the establishment of the law, the judicial system and politics should be carefully examined and heeded,” TusKON said in its statement.

The organization also voiced its regrets that the highest judicial institutions and members of the judiciary in the country are being distracted by ungrounded accusations, adding that this situation is likely to cause a severe blow to the supremacy of the law in the country and the nation’s perception of justice.

In the meantime, Interior Minister Efkan Ala has criticized Kilic for his critical statements, accusing the chief justice of having presidential aspirations.

Many top government officials attended a ceremony on Friday to mark the 52nd anniversary of the establishment of the Constitutional Court. (Photo: Today’s Zaman, Ali unal)

Turkey will hold a presidential election in August and Kilic’s name has been mentioned as being among the possible candidates.

“With his speech, Hasim Kilic has finished himself off. It is a pity,” Ala said during a TV program on sunday.

‘Kilic voiced judiciary’s common concerns’

Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal KilicdaroGlu also extended his support for chief justice Kilic for his speech, saying Kilic had voiced the common concerns of the judiciary.

speaking at a meeting of his party on saturday, the CHP leader said: “If the judiciary is on the defense in a country, something is wrong there. The individuals at the top of the judiciary have voiced their concerns. Those concerns are not the concerns of only a single member but all members of the Constitutional Court.”

Appealing to the judges and prosecutors in the country, KilicdaroGlu asked them to be courageous and fearless, saying: “Nobody can give you orders or send you memos. Your authorities are under constitutional guarantee. Do not worry about reassignment. The place where [the government] will reassign you is still the land of the Turkish Republic.”

since a graft investigation that has extended to the government became public on Dec. 17, the government has reassigned dozens of judicial members in addition to thousands of police officers in the country.

KilicdaroGlu also said the chief justice’s emphasis on the supremacy of the law is perceived as an “insult” by the government, adding that a government with such an attitude cannot be a government of this era but of the Middle Ages.

Meanwhile, CHP deputy sezgin Tanrikulu has submitted a parliamentary inquiry to the Parliament speaker’s Office asking Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications Minister Lutfi Elvan to explain whether Prime Minister ErdoGan’s claims about the wiretapping of the Constitutional Court are true. Tanrikulu asked Elvan to share any relevant evidence with the nation if the phones of the top court are indeed being wiretapped and why an investigation has not been launched into the claims.